DES MOINES, Iowa--The Republican in charge of a Iowa house committee admitted Tuesday that he tried to keep out opponents of a bill that would punish cities that don't detain suspected undocumented immigrants until federal officials can come apprehend them.
Representative Clel Baudler, a Greenfield Republican, is the chair of the public safety committee. "Was (sic) you here the last time we done (sic) this last year?" Baudler asked a reporter about a previous meeting where a crowd showed up to protest the bill, "I threw eleven people out of here one at a time. We don't want a repeat of that and that was an attempt to stop that."
Staff had put white sheets of paper on chairs inside the room that reserved seats for lawmakers and their clerks. That left no room for the protesters to sit inside, forcing them to remain outside the room.
That infuriated activists who wanted their voices heard. "To me, it's a delay tactic, a way for them not to allow people to witness the process," said Sandra Sanchez, the director of American Friends Service Committee's Iowa Immigrants Voice Program.
Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant who has lived in Iowa since 1991, also called the bill "nasty" and "unwelcoming." She thinks it will make some people--immigrants and their families--reluctant to approach law enforcement if they are victims or witnesses to crime, because they will be concerned about being detained.
Baudler, a retired state trooper, said the bill just reinforces "the rule of law" and that cities shouldn't choose on their own not to help federal authorities detain those in the country illegally.
Leadership ended up intervening and had staff remove the reserved signs from chairs and allowed the public to enter the room.
But the committee didn't end up debating the bill at the scheduled time. The meeting started at 2 p.m. But both parties went into private meetings for nearly an hour. When they returned, Baudler said another committee had reserved the room.