DOJ Set To Sue Iowa Over Harsh Immigration Law | Crooked Media
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May 07, 2024
What A Day
DOJ Set To Sue Iowa Over Harsh Immigration Law

In This Episode

  • The Justice Department is set to take a significant step this week, initiating a lawsuit against Iowa over its new immigration law. This law, which criminalizes the entry of individuals previously deported or barred from the country, mirrors the controversial Texas law. The latter is currently under legal scrutiny. Notably, other Republican-led states are also contemplating similar legislation. Spencer Amdur, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, sheds light on the rationale behind these stringent state immigration laws and the reasons why federal courts have invalidated similar state laws.
  • And in headlines: Adult film star Stormy Daniels described in explicit detail a sexual encounter she had with Donald Trump during testimony in the former president’s criminal hush-money trial, TikTok sued the federal government over a new law that could ban the app in the U.S., and Israeli forces seized control of the Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, May 8th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day, the show where we’re thinking that Donald Trump’s chances of receiving a Father’s Day card from his son, Barron, are pretty low this year.


Priyanka Aribindi: Trump specifically asked a New York judge for the day off of his trial because he wanted to be at Barron’s graduation, but apparently he is now scheduled to speak at a Minnesota fundraiser the very same night. Don’t people normally have dinner together? Celebrate?


Juanita Tolliver: Trump knows we can see him, right? [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, adult film star Stormy Daniels takes the stand at Trump’s hush money trial. Plus, TikTok sues the US government. 


Juanita Tolliver: But first, the Justice Department is expected to sue Iowa this week over a new state immigration law. The law makes it a crime for a person to enter Iowa if they’ve previously been deported or barred from entering the country. The Justice Department says that the law interferes with the federal government’s ability to enforce immigration policy, and is now asking the courts to weigh in. Now, the Iowa law hasn’t gone into effect yet, and it won’t until July at the earliest. But if it does, a person found in violation of the law would have a choice. Accept a deportation order from a state judge, or face prosecution and jail time. Most people would be looking at up to two years, but some people could face as many as ten. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This sounds a lot like a law that Texas passed a little while back. What is the status of that law? 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, they are very similar. A panel of appeals court judges put the Texas law on hold in March, while legal challenges continue to play out. The case is expected to wind up at the Supreme Court, and it’s worth noting that Iowa and Texas aren’t the only states considering these kinds of laws. Oklahoma now has a similar law. Missouri, South Carolina, and Louisiana are also among the Republican led states considering inhumane immigration laws. And Arizona’s Democratic governor vetoed a bill there. But while states are passing these laws, there’s still a question of their constitutionality and what they mean for undocumented immigrants. I spoke with Spencer Amdur. He’s a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants Rights Project. I started by asking him more about Iowa’s law and what it would allow the state to do. 


Spencer Amdur: So the Iowa law would allow the state to prosecute and deport people for coming back to the United States after they’ve been removed. And to be clear, these are largely people who have a federal right to come back here. So, you know, people can come back to seek protection against violence in their home country. Thousands of people are in the US on visas to rejoin their families. And what this law would do is let the state of Iowa say to those same people, you know, we’re going to put you in jail for that for up to two years, and either at the beginning or the end of the prosecution, even though you have federal permission to be here, we’re going to remove you to the country that you came from. 


Juanita Tolliver: And how does it differ from the Texas law, SB four, that is currently on hold? 


Spencer Amdur: It’s modeled after the Texas law, but it’s modeled after just one part of the Texas law. So the Texas law would let the state prosecute people for entering the country between ports. They could be prosecuted the first time they do that. The Iowa law only applies to people who have been removed in the past and who have come back to the country. But the Texas law has that same provision, and their state deportation orders look exactly the same. 


Juanita Tolliver: Okay, so law enforcement officials in both Texas and Iowa have questioned how they are supposed to enforce these kinds of laws. So were law enforcement officials consulted on these laws as they were being crafted? And realistically, how would they be enforced? 


Spencer Amdur: It’s a good question. I think the legislatures in these states certainly ignored the voices of law enforcement officers who were saying, this isn’t our job. We don’t know anything about federal immigration law. You know, we don’t want to be doing this. We have a different mission. And so I think they’re going to be making a ton of mistakes as their officers are out in the field trying to figure out what are people’s immigration status, what’s their immigration history. It’s not something they’ve ever done. So that’s going to be a huge problem if any of these laws ever go into effect. And then in terms of how they’re actually going to effectuate it, you know, Mexico has said about the Texas law that they’re not going to accept people that Texas brings to the border and orders to leave and go into Mexico. And so I think it’s totally unclear. You could see standoffs at ports of entry. You could see a lot of confusion all along the border. And that’s part of the problem with these laws that we’ve highlighted in our litigation and the federal government has highlighted. But beyond that, you know, the whole design of these laws is to negate people’s rights under the federal immigration system. So when people come here, even if they cross the border between ports of entry. They can seek all sorts of protections like asylum and other protections like that. These states are proposing to wipe that out and say, even if you want to seek asylum, even if federal law says you have a right to seek asylum, we’re going to deport you anyway. We’re going to put you in jail anyway. And so I think that’s the real human cost that these states are trying to impose is to take away people’s rights under the federal immigration system. 


Juanita Tolliver: And Iowa and Texas are not alone. Other Republican led states have also been looking at similar bills. Oklahoma became the most recent state to sign one into law last week. So what’s driving this push in red states to pass these kinds of laws right now? 


Spencer Amdur: You know, I can’t read their mind, but I think it could be a couple things. You know, number one, I think that there are anti-immigrant politicians out there who think that by attacking immigrants and by creating chaos in the immigration system, that it’s going to help them politically. So I think that that’s part of why you could be seeing all of this in a big election year. I think also the governments and the politicians who are wanting to take away people’s established rights have been emboldened by the Dobbs decision and by the legal climate right now. And so they might be seeing this as their chance to try and say, we know you’ve had these rights for a long time to seek protection here. People have had the right to rejoin their family members living in the U.S., and this is the moment that we’re going to take our shot at taking those away. And so I think once Texas passed SB four, which was the first of these laws, we saw a whole bunch of states sort of take the cue and start following suit. 


Juanita Tolliver: In the past the Supreme Court, even this very conservative iteration of it, has sided with the Biden administration on issues of immigration. That’s something the federal government has jurisdiction over, not the states, though there have been hints that they may be shifting their stance. Most notably when they allowed Texas’s law to temporarily go in effect for what ended up being just a few hours. Is there any reason to believe the justices would act differently here? 


Spencer Amdur: We’re hoping they won’t. You know, as you said, Texas has lost a few cases recently where they’ve been trying to insert themselves in a variety of ways into federal immigration policy. And, you know, in those cases, they’ve been trying to force the federal government to act differently toward immigrants. You know, we’ve seen waves of anti-immigrant state laws in the past, and courts have pretty consistently struck them down. But in some ways, this round of laws is more extreme than we’ve seen in at least 100 years, where states are saying, you know, we’re actually going to just create our own immigration systems completely outside of the federal system. 


Juanita Tolliver: And in that same context, I think back to 2012, when the Supreme Court struck down most of a similar law out of Arizona known as the Show Me Your Papers law. But it allowed police to continue to ask for people’s immigration papers and investigate them. How do you see that case functioning as the precedent, if one of these laws ends up before the Supreme Court? 


Spencer Amdur: So that precedent would doom all of these laws, because what the Supreme Court did there is they only upheld one provision based on the understanding that the state might interpret that provision to mean nothing more than that state police could communicate with ICE. But the Supreme Court struck down three other provisions, basically on the understanding that those provisions were the states trying to unilaterally insert themselves into the federal immigration system. But these new laws we’re seeing now in Texas and Oklahoma and Iowa, they go way beyond even the provisions that the Supreme Court struck down in Arizona, because they don’t just take on one small piece of the immigration system. They sort of seize all of the reins of immigration law for themselves and say, you know, we’re going to regulate entry. We’re going to deport people. And so we think that that precedent should basically be the end of the story for this new set of laws. 


Juanita Tolliver: And none of these laws are being enforced yet. But how are you advising people who could be caught up in them if they were ever allowed to go into effect? 


Spencer Amdur: I think if they do go into effect, it’s going to be really chaotic because you could start seeing a system where every one of the states has its own immigration rules, and the federal government is sort of scrambling to adjust to it. Immigrants are scrambling to adjust. You know, the organizations that we’re working with in these states that provide legal services are facing enormous changes to their operations where they would have to figure out how to represent people in state custody. How to help them kind of hold on to the immigration status they have, or the immigration relief that they’re entitled to under federal law despite these state prison sentences, despite these state deportation orders. And so, I think it’s going to be rough for immigrants, and it’s going to be rough for the federal government if any of these go into effect. 


Juanita Tolliver: That was my conversation with Spencer Amdur, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants Rights Project. That’s the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in a moment, but if you like our show, subscribe and share it with your friends. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The day finally arrived, the woman of the hour, Stormy Daniels, took to the stand in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial on Tuesday. Some of us wish she didn’t, but it’s fine. The adult film star, who is a key witness in this case, described in pretty explicit detail her sexual encounter with Trump back in 2006 and as if having sex with Donald Trump were not punishment enough, she wasn’t even allowed to out him as the creep that we know he is during the 2016 election season. Hence the infamous hush money in question. Daniels on Tuesday took the jury through the chain of events that concluded with that famous $130,000 payment from Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. Trump’s team argued that Daniels went too far, explaining her sexual encounter with Trump. Maybe they were grossed out imagining their client having sex, much like we were. 


Juanita Tolliver: I’m cringing. I’m cringing very much. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And they asked for a mistrial. But Justice Juan Merchan pretty quickly shut that request down. Daniels is set to be back on the stand when the trial resumes on Thursday. 


Juanita Tolliver: After a rough day in his hush money trial, Trump received some good news in his classified documents case. Judge Aileen Cannon postponed the Florida trial date indefinitely. It was scheduled to start on May 20th. In a Tuesday filing, she said, quote, “the finalization of a trial date at this juncture would be imprudent and inconsistent with the court’s duty to fully and fairly consider the various pending pretrial motions before the court.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Lame. Boo. Tomato, tomato.


Juanita Tolliver: I mean come on. Her decision is not without criticism. The Trump appointed judge has been accused of delaying the criminal case in support of Trump’s effort to push trials beyond the November 2024 election. This is yet another victory for Trump, as he continues to slow walk his day in court up and down the eastern seaboard. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. And as expected, TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance are suing the US government. In April, Congress passed a foreign aid package, which included a law to ban the social media app if TikTok doesn’t find a new owner within nine months. In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, TikTok says that the ban singles out the platform and is a violation of the First Amendment. The suit goes on to say, quote, “for the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single named speech platform to a permanent nationwide ban and bars every American from participating in a unique online community with more than one billion people worldwide,” this case is likely headed to the Supreme Court. Members of Congress say that TikTok is a national security threat and claim that the Chinese government can access user data, but maybe it’s because they haven’t been able to figure out how to do any of the viral TikTok dances. They’re very difficult. I have not recorded any of my attempts, but I certainly have tried. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh no. [laugh]


Priyanka Aribindi: They’re challenging. It’s a workout, honestly. 


Juanita Tolliver: You’re not moving your feet in most cases though, so I don’t. I’m not judging. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a workout for my brain. 


Juanita Tolliver: No judge. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a workout for my brain. 


Juanita Tolliver: President Biden gave a speech Tuesday condemning what he called a, quote, “ferocious surge” in antisemitism in the U.S., particularly on college campuses amid the war in Gaza. Biden made the remarks on Tuesday at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC during a ceremony dedicated to remembering the six million Jewish people who were killed during World War Two. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] I understand people have strong beliefs and deep convictions about the world. In America, we respect and protect a fundamental right to free speech, to protest peacefully, and make our voices heard. But there is no place on any campus in America, any place in America for antisemitism, or hate speech or threats of violence of any kind. [applause]


Juanita Tolliver: The Department of Education released guidance for schools and colleges to combat rising antisemitism, including how to identify antisemitism and crack down on anti-Semitic content online. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Israeli forces seized control of the Rafah border crossing on Tuesday, marking the country’s first ground incursion into the southern Gaza City. This essentially cuts off Gaza’s access to humanitarian aid from neighboring Egypt, and it makes it impossible for anyone to flee the densely populated strip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would invade Rafah with or without a ceasefire deal with Hamas. That remains an absolutely bonkers statement. Israeli officials went to Cairo to further cease fire talks on Tuesday, but a senior Hamas official gave a press conference warning Israel that there will be no ceasefire deal if the assault on Rafah continues. This comes after Hamas accepted a cease fire proposal brokered by Qatari and Egyptian mediators earlier this week. The official told reporters, quote, “we are firm that the ball is now first in the court of Netanyahu and the extremist pillars of his government.” 


Juanita Tolliver: This reminds me of something Senator Sanders said earlier this week. He emphasized that two thirds of the people killed in Gaza are women and children. They’re the ones who suffer when humanitarian aid is blocked and when the bombardment continues. And so that imagery and that reality is not something that should be downplayed, especially as Netanyahu was making these statements. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. Certainly not. And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Congratulate a graduate and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just a transcript of Stormy Daniels emasculating a former president in graphic detail like me. What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And we’re still scared of the TikTok teens. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I fear the TikTok teens, but I fear that taking away TikTok doesn’t solve the problem. 


Juanita Tolliver: But it does because meet me on any sidewalk and I’m sure there will be nothing done. Like nothing will happen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The Sephoras are going to be emptied out. What are we going to do? What are we going to do if they’re not on TikTok? [music break] What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.