Local Senator Steve Kettering is one of three Iowa Senate Republicans making up a new task force that unveiled a plan Tuesday to crack down on illegal immigration in Iowa. Iowa Republican insist the action is needed because the federal government has failed to act.
Their proposal includes hiring more state troopers, cutting government services such as Medicaid and food stamps to illegal immigrants, requiring agencies to check citizenship and banning illegal immigrants from community colleges and public universities.
"The state is only stepping in because of the complete and utter failure of the federal government to address this problem," said Kettering, Lake View.
The three senators said other states, including Oklahoma and Arizona, have moved ahead with similar reforms as Congress has failed to pass a comprehensive plan.
Kettering said that businesses caught hiring illegal aliens would be penalized. "The rules for businesses will be reasonable, consistent and enforceable. If businesses follow the rules, they have nothing to fear," he said.
"Iowans want an end to the days of law enforcement catch and release. That can only happen if the federal government works with local law officials," Kettering says.
"Our federal counterparts have failed to help local law enforcement and this plan will repair the break of trust. It will enable a better relationship within law enforcement and will enable them to do their job better."
Iowans have lost faith in the federal government to respond to illegal immigration, Kettering said, but trust their state leaders to follow through.
As part of the plan, immigration regulations would be more clearly spelled out so employers could more easily follow the law. The task force also proposes having Iowa Workforce Development help businesses verify that employees' work papers are legal. Businesses and government agencies could then issue tamper-proof IDs similar to federal "green cards."
House Democrats have already proposed an immigration reform plan that would levy big fines against heads of corporations that knowingly hire undocumented workers.
The Republicans said the Democratic approach unfairly puts the burden on businesses when the government should be doing its job.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Iowa should crackdown on illegal immigration, but insisted that the best way to do that is to get tough on big corporations that hire undocumented workers.
"Corporate executives should face stiff fines and jail time for exploiting workers and lining their pockets by taking advantage of cheap labor," he said.
The Republican plan also would cut illegal immigrants from all government services except in emergencies and would demand citizenship checks before providing public assistance. Illegal immigrants also would be banned from all education tuition help.
Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat, said the GOP proposal of taking away all government assistance goes too far.
"I think that's going a little over the edge. We've been taking care of people regardless of what country they came from for the history of this state, and we need to continue to do that," he said.
The GOP proposal would also train local law enforcement on immigration issues, and provide for 14 new state troopers dedicated to immigration enforcement.
The Republican group said that too often when an illegal immigrant is taken into custody, federal officials refuse to pick them up and deport them. Some times federal agents will only pick up large numbers of illegal immigrants, he said.
"When these illegals are caught, whether it's a traffic violation or some other violation of our laws they will be detained and we will expect (federal officials) to come pick these folks up and dispose of them in a proper manner," McKinley said.
The plan for the additional troopers would cost about $2.4 million. GOP lawmakers had no estimates on the cost of state workers helping to check employee documents.
The GOP task force emphasized that Iowa remains a state friendly to immigrants, so long as they are here legally.