By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
The Iowa Catholic Conference opposes House Study Bill 67, an “enforcement only” immigration bill that passed out of subcommittee last week and is eligible for consideration by the full Iowa House Public Safety Committee. This bill would prohibit the state, counties, cities and some post-secondary educational institutions from limiting or restricting enforcement of federal immigration law in Iowa.
“We are concerned about the bill for several reasons,” said Tom Chapman executive director of the ICC, the public policy arms of Iowa’s bishops. “First, we believe we have a Scriptural obligation to ‘welcome the stranger’ and support public policies that help immigrants provide for their families. The bishops appreciate the right of the government to control our borders, but don’t believe that a large-scale detention system and a crackdown at the local level are going to be helpful for families.
“We believe one effect of the bill would be to push every Iowa county to always comply with all federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold undocumented people, even if longer than their offense would normally allow. As a result, there is concern that the bill would cause some citizens and non-citizens to fear interaction with the police because their immigration status or that of their friends might be investigated. Many members of the law enforcement community appreciate the value of separating local policing from federal law enforcement. The bill would also likely conflict with federal privacy laws regarding students’ information.”
Chapman said legislators seem to be rushing the bill through; it was introduced a week ago Wednesday and a subcommittee meeting was held the following day.
State-funded family planning program
Senate File 2 passed the Senate on Feb. 2 by a vote of 30 to 20. The bill sets up a state-funded family planning program, which is intended to duplicate the current federal-state program. The main change is that abortion providers would not be able to receive funding. The ICC supports the bill, which now goes to the Iowa House for consideration.
Education Savings Accounts update
The ICC believes that all parents, regardless of address or income, deserve education choices that reflect their basic convictions and aspirations for their child. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) will allow parents who choose not to enroll their children in a public school to receive a deposit of public funds into a savings account set up by the state. This money could be used by parents for Catholic school tuition or other educational purposes. Chapman anticipates seeing an ESA proposal soon at the legislature.
Stand up for refugees and immigrants
The ICC encourages Iowa Catholics to contact the president and their members of Congress and stand up for refugees and immigrants. The Catholic church has been resettling refugees in Iowa for decades with few problems. “The proposed changes in the resettlement program are contrary to our country’s values and ideals of freedom, fairness and compassion.”
The bishops are also supporting the federal BRIDGE Act as a bipartisan effort to sustain temporary relief from deportation and employment eligibility offered to youth through the Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Bishops asking for executive order on religious liberty
At the federal level, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports President Donald Trump’s executive order on religious liberty. From the bishops’ perspective, elements of such an order should include:
• nRelief from the “HHS mandate” forcing cooperation with contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
• Preservation of tax-exempt status for nonprofits that hold beliefs based on marriage, human sexuality, and the protection of human life at all stages.
• The ability of religious organizations that partner with the federal government to act according to their beliefs regarding marriage, human sexuality, and the protection of human life at all stages.
Religious freedom entails more than the freedom to worship but also includes the ability to act on one’s beliefs.
For more information on these and other topics and action alerts, visit the ICC website.