D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers highlight immigration and the opioid crisis

By: - February 11, 2023 8:00 am

Sen. Joni Ernst, second from left, along with Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, right and Randy Feenstra, rear right, visited the San Ysidro Port of Entry at the southern U.S. border just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Also shown is Sen. Katie Boyd Britt, R-Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Ernst’s office)

Members of Iowa’s congressional delegation worked to spotlight immigration issues this week with a recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, while also addressing ethanol and livestock issues and the fentanyl crisis.

Ernst, Feenstra, Miller-Meeks travel to southern border

Sen. Joni Ernst and Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra made a trip to the southern border to tour enforcement facilities at San Ysidro Port of Entry just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Ernst proposed a recommendation she said she received from border officials to address the problem of asylum seekers overwhelming border facilities:

“One recommendation that our own authorities and the embassy had suggested was we need to do the adjudication of asylum claims right away. And they said, ‘We hold people and we adjudicate their claims instead of turning them loose in the United States,’” Ernst said. “If those migrants knew that they would be held until the judge could take a look at their asylum claim, not so many migrants would come. They would apply for asylum in other countries.”

Iowa lawmakers also sought to address an agricultural trade issue during their trip. Ernst said Feenstra “cornered” the foreign secretary of Mexico at one point to relay concerns about the country’s ban on genetically modified corn.

Feenstra emphasized that a quarter of corn exports go to Mexico. He also said that the foreign secretary and himself had a productive conversation about how to solve the problem in the next six to twelve months through the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Ernst introduces bills addressing fentanyl

 Ernst said she is reintroducing two bills aimed at tackling fentanyl trafficking and distribution.

The Transnational Criminal Organization Illicit Spotter Prevention and Elimination Act would increase fines and impose a maximum prison time of 10 years on those convicted of helping cartels, according to a press release. The Felony Murder for Deadly Fentanyl Distribution Act would make the distribution of fentanyl resulting in death punishable by federal felony murder charges.

“An open border is a drug lord’s dream. It leaves Americans vulnerable to cartels, the criminals who aid them, and those who distribute deadly drugs,” Ernst said in a news release. “The criminals profiting from this administration’s border crisis and the fentanyl epidemic need to face consequences that match their crimes, which is what my efforts do.”

Iowa delegation seeks action on ethanol regulations

Ernst is also leading a letter to the Biden administration asking that “regulatory barriers” be removed from gasoline-ethanol blends like E10, E15 and E85, typically the fuels from the blue and yellow pumps at the gas station. All four of Iowa’s House members also signed the latter, as did Sen. Chuck Grassley and members of both parties in both chambers of Congress.

The policy change would “provide much-needed certainty to farmers, producers and consumers” and require the Environmental Protection Agency to
“remove the 1-psi volatility waiver and allow states to sell E15 year-round,” according to a news release. Ernst joined the bipartisan push last year to extend E-15 sales.

Grassley helps reintroduce meatpacking antitrust legislation

Grassley, along with Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Republican South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, reintroduced the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act.

 The bill would establish the Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters in the USDA Packers and Stockyards Division. It would be “comprised of a team of investigators, with subpoena power who are responsible for targeting and preventing anti-competitive practices among large players in the meat and poultry industries,” according to a press release. 

“Increased consolidation and anti-competitive tactics by meat packers continues to create unfair markets for Iowa meat producers and consumers alike,” Grassley said.

Feenstra named to subcommittee on livestock, dairy and poultry

Feenstra, R-Hull, has been appointed to the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry on the House Agriculture Committee.

From passing a strong Farm Bill and opening foreign export markets to advocating for transparency and fairness in the cattle market and promoting biosecurity, I am confident that we will accomplish many legislative priorities critical to America’s heartland this Congress,” Feenstra said in a statement.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Luke Clausen
Luke Clausen

Luke Clausen is a reporting intern with Iowa Capital Dispatch. He is a student at Drake University studying Multimedia Journalism, Magazine and Brand Media, and International Relations. Additionally, he helps to manage the Ambassador-in-Residence initiative at Drake with Ambassador Terry Branstad and Drake's Global Engagement team.