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Human Rights Commission submits immigration proposals

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | SEPTEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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Officials with the Iowa City Human Rights Commission said they are unsure how the City Council will receive the group’s recommendations about improving the lives of the city’s immigrants.

Dianne Day, a member of the commission, said four members of a subcommittee spent the summer compiling information about surveys they distributed to the local immigrant community. That information is set to be presented to the council at its work session on Sept. 19.

The latest development comes after councilors put on hold all discussions about the possibility of an immigrant “sanctuary city” last March.

That ordinance would have given illegal immigrants in Iowa City amnesty from federal anti-immigration laws in the hopes of reducing fear of deportation, which contradicts federal regulations.

Despite a wealth of information, members are unsure if the council will act on the committee’s proposals.

“If City Council adopted all nine, I would be amazed and grateful,” said Karla Detweiler, a member of the Sanctuary City committee.

The commission is urging councilors to educate the public to reduce discrimination through a series of nine recommendations. These proposals include increasing access to city services by immigrant communities, using Human Rights Commission resources to hold public forums on immigration issues, and changing identification requirements.

“There was no differentiation between a picture ID and a driver’s license,” Day said. “That to me, personally, is an example not of intentional discrimination or singling out any group, it’s totally unintentional due to lack of awareness.”

She said she believes education and communication are the best means of reducing fear among immigrants and expanding the public’s awareness.

“We can promote education and promote understanding through knowledge,” Day said. “The communication has to be there to acknowledge whether things are fact or fiction.”

One recommendation suggested the city implement a program similar to the “Employee Authority in Immigration Matters” municipal code in place in St. Paul and Minneapolis. The program would limit immigration enforcement by city officials.

At the City Council’s last discussion of the proposals, in March, a few councilors were skeptical about making Iowa City a “sanctuary city.”

“The punishment for ignoring federal law on the issue is losing access to the federal crime database, which would be a terrible idea for any law-enforcement association,” Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek told The Daily Iowan after that meeting.

The rights commission also called for reaching out to local immigrant communities, increasing law enforcement’s effectiveness with immigrant communities, and creating a subcommittee on the City Council to serve as a means of communication between immigrants and the local government.

“We need to take leadership in promoting what our country was based on, which was equal rights for all,” Day said.


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