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Any search for the reasons why the Roman Empire collapsed will show that a crushing level of illegal immigration greatly contributed to their downfall. In this edition of Freedom Watch, I will explain why the crushing level of illegal immigration on our southern border must be responded to with state action, in absence of border enforcement under the Biden Administration. I will explain what SF2340 does, why we passed it and the challenges we face going forward.

Early on in session, I instructed staff to craft legislation similar to a Texas law that the Biden Administration is currently fighting to stop. It creates a state crime for being in the country illegally when a person has been previously identified as not having legal status to be here. This legislation is made necessary because federal authorities under the Biden Administration refuse to enforce immigration laws. The Iowa Senate had similar ideas, and the resulting legislation was SF2340. I floor-managed this legislation to passage and it is headed to the Governor’s desk for signature.

These disturbing facts have surfaced recently, further adding to the urgency that action be taken:

  • An illegal migrant caught in Texas near the Mexican border earlier this month claimed to be a member of the terror network Hezbollah. He was bound for New York and intended to make a bomb so he could kill Americans.
  • 357,000 migrants have been flown into the U.S. under a Biden Administration Parole Program.
  • Reports of buses dropping off illegal immigrants in Iowa are being investigated.
  • Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, was murdered while out on a jog in Athens Georgia. She was killed by blunt force trauma to the head, allegedly by an illegal Venezuelan immigrant who should never have been in the United States, Jose Ibarra. He entered the U.S. unlawfully in 2022.
  • Illegal immigrants who are crossing our border are being coached by charity groups to game the system and make bogus claims of asylum, aided and abetted by the Biden Administration.
  • A huge illegal immigration economy is springing up in places like New York, undermining opportunities for legal workers.

We know that there are many in our country and in our state illegally who came here for a better life, to escape the horrors or lack of opportunities in their native countries. They are working in our communities, and are our neighbors, many contributing in positive ways to our society. Unfortunately, we also know far too well that there are gang members, drug dealers, terrorists and those who mean to do harm coming across our out-of-control borders. The reality is that this is unsustainable and threatens to collapse our country.

Early on in his presidency, Joe Biden enacted policies that resulted in chaos on our southern border. He halted construction of the border wall, ended President Trump’s zero tolerance policy on prosecuting illegal border crossings, ended a visa ban on a group of Muslim countries that was enacted due to national security concerns, requested legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally, which would reward illegality and encourage more illegal crossings, ended the Remain in Mexico policy, engaged in mass releases instead of following mandatory detention statutes, and refused to enforce the “public charge” rule that denies green cards to immigrants who might use benefits such as Medicaid.

As the border crisis grew worse, Joe Biden either ignored it, blamed others, or claimed he did not have the authority to act, in spite of the fact that it was his policy decisions that encouraged illegal immigration and blew our borders wide open.

Joe Biden’s federal government has abdicated its border responsibilities, and as a result America has open borders and has lost its sovereignty. States now have no choice but to act.

The federal government claims that states are powerless to act on immigration issues based upon the legal concept of “implied federal preemption.” Courts have used this doctrine to strike down state laws under the idea that immigration laws are strictly under the purview of the federal government.

I reject the doctrine of “implied federal preemption” in the situation we currently find ourselves in. I believe, as do a number of constitutional scholars I have studied, that the Constitution in fact does recognize some state military and immigration authority. There is an excellent series of articles by Ron Natelson, a former constitutional law professor, on this issue. He points out that in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15, the Constitution says that each state has a militia and that Congress may enlist state militias to repel “invasions.” Article 4, Section 4 tells us the federal government is OBLIGATED to protect each state against invasion. It says, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government and shall protect each of them against invasion.” What are states to do to protect their citizens when the federal government fails in this responsibility?

Professor Natelson explains that a state may act independently of the federal government and may engage in war if invaded or in such imminent danger that action cannot be delayed. He points to Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3 of our Constitution, which states, “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”

The danger is real, the threat is imminent, and we do not have time to delay and hope the federal government suddenly decides to do its job and secure the border. Clearly, that is not happening under Joe Biden.

Professor Natelson also discusses the meaning of invasion in the Constitution. Does the flood of illegal immigrants crossing our border meet the constitutional meaning of invasion? Three U.S. Appeals Courts have said the constitutional meaning of “invasion” is limited to an attack by a foreign army, yet the Supreme Court once characterized a small group of eight spies as “invaders.” To determine what the word invasion meant in the Constitution, Professor Natelson researched founding era dictionaries and of the 13 editions he studied only one of them limited invasion to formal military incursions.

Additional research found that James Madison writing in the Federalist papers certainly did not limit invasion to formal military operations. There is also an 18th century case of illegal immigration in which Connecticut citizens poured into the Wyoming valley of Pennysylvania, what would now be the Scranton area. To Pennsylvanians, this unauthorized immigration was an invasion. In 1783, the Pennsylvania Legislature labeled the Connecticut settlers “invaders of the state.” Professor Natelson concluded that the Constitution’s words invaded, and invasion include unauthorized mass migration that triggers not only certain powers – but also a duty on the state and federal level. WE MUST ACT, and in Iowa, we did just that.

In 2024, there is invasion and chaos on our southern border. There is human smuggling, labor trafficking, and sex trafficking. There is a massive amount of illegal drugs crossing the border into our country. All of this avoidable human tragedy is finding its way to states across our nation, including Iowa, which is why every state is now a border state.

In 2023 alone, Iowa’s Department of Public Safety’s Division of Narcotics Enforcement seized more than 83,000 fentanyl tablets, more than 1,000 pounds of meth, 800 pounds of marijuana, and 165 pounds of cocaine, coming in large part from the southern border. These sobering statistics, along with the horrific reality of sex and labor trafficking components of illegal immigration, and the strain being placed on our social services and education systems, clearly demonstrate that the status quo of federal government failure is simply unsustainable.

For all of these reasons we pushed the envelope, acted decisively and passed this legislation. It certainly does not solve all of these challenges, and the federal government may take legal action to stop this law from going into effect, but we must do all we can to stop this insanity. We must fight for our state right to respond to invasion in the absence of federal action.

Iowa’s elected state officials have a moral responsibility to protect our sovereignty. The U.S. Constitution does in fact give us the authority to act in the face of this imminent threat, and we must fight for this right in court, if necessary, just as Texas is doing.

We want no more mothers and fathers to suffer as did the parents of Sarah Root, Laken Riley and so many others, and we must not allow the crush of illegal immigration to collapse our government systems and our economy, as befell the once great Roman Empire.

This is why we passed SF2340 and other pieces of legislation this session to protect Iowa and why we will continue to take decisive action to demand that the federal government do its job, enforce our immigration laws, and restore national sovereignty. If they refuse to do so, then they must get out of our way, because we will not sit on our hands while Rome is burning.

Author: Steven Holt


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