Iowa Legislature addresses immigration, death penalty bills

By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger

Activity is picking up at the State Capitol as several issues of concern to Catholics are being considered.

At press time, a subcommittee meeting was scheduled to consider an immigration enforcement bill that the Iowa Cath­olic Conference has opposed since it was introduced in the Senate last year. Senate File 481 passed the Senate last April and is being considered in the House.
The bill requires local jails to comply with all requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold immigrants, even when federal law does not require it. People would be held for possible deportation, even for relatively minor offenses, when they otherwise normally would get released. Nothing in existing law stops law enforcement authorities from keeping dangerous people in jail when necessary.

Death penalty

Also this week, a subcommittee meeting was scheduled to consider House Study Bill 569, which would bring back the possibility of a sentence of death for first-degree murder. The Catholic bishops do not believe the death penalty is necessary to protect society. The death penalty was abolished in Iowa in 1965. Today, a conviction of first-degree murder brings a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Chapman

In 1998, the last time this issue came around, the Catholic bishops of Iowa said, “We dare to take this position and we raise this challenge because of our commitment to a consistent ethic of life, by which we wish to give unambiguous witness to the sacredness of every human life from conception through natural death. We proclaim the good news that no person is beyond the redemptive mercy of God.”

Pope Francis has said, “All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom.”

Catholic Schools Week

Catholic Schools Week is wrapping up in Iowa. The theme, “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” focuses on the important spiritual, academic and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education. National School Choice Week was celebrated last week. Gov. Kim Reynolds attended an event with students from Holy Family School in Des Moines. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) anticipates the legislature will be considering ways to help all parents choose the educational option that best fits their child’s unique needs, regardless of income, location, cost, special needs or other barriers currently preventing that choice.
Strengthening families

The ICC appreciates the introduction of House File 2053 by Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, to create an 18-month-long window after marriage in which a new spouse’s income would not count when determining eligibility for welfare. Sometimes people choose to avoid marriage because they would lose welfare benefits; the bill would help fix that problem.

Abortion bill fails

At the federal level, the U.S. Senate failed to advance the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” The bill, rejected Monday, was similar to a law enacted in Iowa last year to stop abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“Pro-life Americans would finally have a groundbreaking victory for life in the U.S. Senate if the vote passed with majority rules as it should,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America on the 51-46 vote in the Senate.

“It’s only common sense that abortion be limited at the point at which the preborn infant feels great pain and the procedure is dangerous for women. For those Senators who voted against the bill, Millennials will be asking how they can embrace such an inhumane procedure for infants who can survive outside the womb, and the Pro-life generation will hold them accountable.”

ICC as a resource

Don’t forget to use the ICC website to contact your members of Congress and state legislators on matters of interest. A major concern of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ is passing protection for Dreamers/DACA recipients. For more information, go to www.votervoice.net/icc/home.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)

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