Photo: Anuska Sampedro (Flickr)
Alabama’s law that was passed earlier this year and is aimed at reducing its illegal immigrant population is considered one of strictest in the country and could affect future Indiana legislation.
The law authorizes police at traffic stops to question and detain – without bond – those suspected of being illegal immigrants. It requires employers to verify the status of their employees if they suspect they’re in the country illegally. It prohibits illegal immigrants to enter into contracts with the state, like applying for a driver’s license.
“There have been reports of illegal immigrants fleeing the state; in some cases, fleeing the country,”
Todd Stacy, communications director for the Alabama Speaker of the House, says the state was tired of federal inaction.
“It’s a public safety problem,” he says. “It’s a jobs problem. It’s something that has crept into our state, and the people just got fed up.”
Some portions of the law have been temporarily struck down. For example, a provision criminalizing the transporting, harboring or shielding of illegal immigrants and one requiring public schools to verify the immigration status of their students. But Stacy says the law is already clearly working.
“There have been reports of illegal immigrants fleeing the state; in some cases, fleeing the country,” he says.
But American Civil Liberties Union Immigrant’s Rights attorney Andre Segura says it is that very reaction that he hopes will prevent other states from following Alabama’s lead.
“You’re seeing families fleeing, kids being taken out of school, people afraid to go out on the street, people wondering if their marriage license is still valid, just really extreme chaos that we’ve never seen on that level before,” he says.
Indiana passed its own illegal immigration legislation during its last session, which requires employers involved with the government – for instance, those that contract with a governmental entity or receive tax dollars – to use the federal E-Verify system to check the status of their employees. It also prohibits the transportation, harboring or shielding of illegal immigrants–a provision halted in Alabama that has not been challenged in Indiana.
Bill author Senator Mike Delph says that is very important.
“It’s my personal belief that there ought to be a special place in hell for those that traffic in human beings and profit from the exploitation of their fellow man,” he says.
The courts, however have blocked two portions of Indiana’s immigration law One clause prohibited use of consular identification cards, a commonly-used ID provided by foreign embassies or consulates. The other provision allowed the arrest of people who had a removal order or notice of action from federal immigration authorities. Delph says he has no plans to bring forward more illegal immigration legislation in the next session.
“We’re going to take a wait-and-see approach,” he says. “You know, we always like to take a look and see the impact that laws that we pass have on our state and on our citizenry and the law’s only been enforced since July.”
Influence From Alabama
But Delph has proposed illegal immigration legislation in each of the last four years. And this past session, one of the key portions of Alabama’s law – the provision allowing police to detain suspected illegal immigrants at traffic stops – was originally part of Delph’s bill.
Hammond Representative Mara Candelaria-Reardon is one of the leading voices of opposition to Delph’s legislation. She says she does not envision him stopping now, particularly with the success of Alabama’s law.
“Mike Delph is like a rabid dog with this issue and I would be shocked if he didn’t go ahead and do it,” Candelaria-Reardon says. “I mean, he seems to be pretty addicted to the limelight pursuing this legislation has continued to create for him.”
Candelaria-Reardon says she does not think a law as harsh as Alabama’s will ever get through the Indiana General Assembly. Delph says the people of Indiana will ultimately have to decide whether tougher immigration reform is something the legislature needs to address.