Legislative update


By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger

As attention turns to budget matters at the Iowa Legislature, the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) asks for your help to support Senate File 2298. It would expand the current RefugeeRISE program contingent on an appropriation from the legislature. The Iowa Refugee Alliance is seeking $350,000 from the state to leverage $650,000 in federal matching dollars. The program is run by EMBARC, a nonprofit group founded by Burmese refugees.

Tom Chapman
Tom Chapman

The RefugeeRISE program hires Americorps teams to build workforce skills and self-sufficiency in the refugee community by pairing one native English-speaking member with one refugee member to:

• Increase access for refugees to existing workforce development programs.
• Build skills through culturally and linguistically appropriate workshops.
• Provide direct services in native languages.


In partnership with the federal government, resettlement agencies such as Catholic Charities and USCRI provide direct assistance to refugees during the first 90 days following arrival. Other groups such as EMBARC, Lutheran Services in Iowa, and Visiting Nurse Services provide important services after the first 90 days.

Meanwhile, lawmakers were pushing bills out to beat the March 11 second “funnel” deadline. Bills (other than budget or tax) were required to have passed one chamber and through a committee in the opposite chamber to remain eligible this session.

Fetal body parts bill
The Iowa House passed House File 2329 56-43. The bill would prohibit the trafficking or use of fetal body parts following an abortion. The House did adopt an amendment to allow current fetal cell lines derived from abortions to be used for research. The purpose was to allow the University of Iowa to continue current research on cells derived from an aborted fetus.

Most of the opposition to House File 2329 during debate was based on an “end justifies the means” argument in support of all research. The ICC believes that the use of the fetal tissue in question is unethical because it is obtained as a result of an abortion. The bill was passed too late for the Senate to take any action before the legislative deadline.

Immigration bill
The Iowa House did not bring up House File 2276, an “enforcement-only” immigration bill. That means the bill is dead for the session.

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