Monday's U.S. Supreme Court upholding of an Arizona provision that enables police to conduct roadside immigration-paper checks, leaves many fearful Iowa could enact a similar law.
Many have dubbed the provision the "show me your papers" provision.
The high court split its decision, which, because of the limited ruling, will still allow opponents to file suit for the most common criticism that the law will lead to privacy invasion and discrimination.
Advocates of immigration reform assembled Monday at the Iowa Capitol. Their message to legislators was clear: they will not tolerate such a law in Iowa.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which has a chapter in Marshalltown, was among the groups that rallied at the Capitol and held a press conference.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Ruth Schultz, the group's Latino community organizer, said some provisions of the Arizona ruling help better establish immigration policies, but the upholding of the "show me your papers" provision is egregious.
"It's bad for civil rights, it's bad for the fabric of communities like Marshalltown with large immigrant populations," she said. "It does open the door for racial profiling."
She said the ruling sets a precedent for other states to adopt a similar provision.
On the other hand, the court struck down other elements of Arizona's immigration law that "show me your papers" critics say help their cause.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court stipulated that Arizona's requirements that mandate immigrants to carry their papers, allow police to arrest immigrants without warrants and prohibit undocumented immigrants from working or even seeking employment were attempts to trump federal jurisdiction.
Schultz said a provision such as "show me your papers" engenders many immigrants already leery attitude toward police.
The problem, she said, is that when laws leave undocumented immigrants in fear of reprisal, they force those immigrants to weigh the consequences of contacting police for other reasons.
Laws like Arizona's assume a duty on the part of local law enforcement to act as U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, she said. That ambiguity puts local police in a bind. It leaves undocumented immigrants fearful of being deported since they can no longer distinguish between one government agency capable of deporting them and another.
"People are very wary of contacting the police even now, and we don't have ['show me your papers']," Schultz said. "When the consequences are so grave, the stakes are so high, people do have to walk cautious (sic)."
Marshall County Sheriff Ted Kamatchus, a Republican, said a provision like Arizona's "show me your papers" would be a frivolous use of police time.
He said the county prison is already to capacity and since the state doesn't have the ability to deport immigrants, it would prove fruitless for county or state officials to enforce immigration laws.
It is the federal government that needs to be strong on this issue, he added.
"Citizenship is not a state right, it's a federal right," he said.
Kamatchus specified that he is not commenting on those immigrants the sheriff's office arrests for violations unrelated to their citizenship. The sheriff's office already runs the records of immigrants it arrests and checks against a federal database, he said.
However, he said deputies need to focus on victim crimes. They don't have time to go knocking on doors or pulling people over to ask for their documentation.
"It would be nothing but a waste of resources," he said.
Nearly 25 percent of Marshalltown's community is Hispanic.
The polemical ruling comes less than two weeks after President Obama announced deferred action for law-abiding, undocumented youth who meet a short list of criteria.
Critics like Schultz say provisions like "show me your papers" create vague designations between police and ICE agents. She said groups like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement will resist government attempts to marry those two positions at every turn.
"When you start blurring that line, it does open the door for more line blurring," she said.