A legislative committee studying immigration issues announced this week that law enforcement needs more help to police new Iowans, and protect them. After hearings in several towns where the immigrant population’s grown fast in recent years, committee member and Republican senator Maggie Tinsman of Davenport said she was startled to conclude there’s a need for legislation to ban trafficking in human beings.
Tinsman says it’s now the second most common organized crime in the U.S. — drugs are number-one, and trafficking in people is number two. There’s a federal anti-trafficking law, but Tinsman says passing a state law too would give local authorities the right to prosecute people found forcing others to do things against their will.
Tinsman says the federal government’s own law isn’t enough to police the crime, and feds want state laws banning a practice she calls human slavery. She says 80-percent of those bought and sold are women and children. Tinsman says other Midwestern states including Illinois, Kansas and Missouri have passed laws of their own.
The committee’s also recommending more funding for schools to teach English as a Second Language. Republican Representative Jodi Tymeson says right now they get funding for three years of teaching, but it should be five. The older a student is when coming into the program, the longer it’ll take them to learn, she explains. Three years might be enough for a young child but she says for an older one, or an adult, it could take five years, or seven.
The committee’s also recommending an incentive for local police officers who learn a second language. Iowa City Democratic Senator Joe Bolkcom says it could be anything from tuition repayment to a tax credit. Bolkcom says the chief of police in Perry told them about trying and failing for two years to recruit a bilingual police officer. He says they’re looking at all kinds of incentives to get more bilingual people in law enforcement.
Bolkcom says those incentives could also extend to doctors and teaches who work with immigrants. Bolkcom says the committee hears from public-safety officials who stop immigrants and can’t find out who they are because they have no legal I.D., from businesspeople who have customers wanting to set up checking accounts and loans but can’t because they have no identification. He says there’s no clear solution so they’ll study more and then recommend to lawmakers a comprehensive identification system for every Iowan. Immigration’s been a divisive issue for legislative Republicans and Democrats, but Bolkcom says this bipartisan committee may sidestep that problem.