A bill similar to one passed in Arizona which cracks down on immigration is making its way through Indiana’s House. It’s a bill that some call “morally reprehensible,” and one Monroe County leaders fear will have a negative financial impact on local economies.
The author of Senate Bill 590 Mike Delph says he understands why some might question the constitutionality of his proposal.
“We’re certainly pushing the envelope,” he says. “I believe that all the provisions are in compliance with law. Certainly people can make an argument.”
But Delph says if his bill were to become law, it wouldn’t really change much.
“It’s been existing federal law in the United States,” he says, “for over six years for those that visit our country legally whether they’re coming here to study or work to keep on their person the documentation that establishes their lawful presence to be here.”
Hurting a weakened economy
But leaders around the state seem to disagree. Members of the Monroe County Council and Bloomington City Council have signed resolutions against the bill, joining a number of state leaders including Attorney General Greg Zoeller in standing behind what’s called the Indiana Compact.
County Councilman Sam Allison who sponsored the county’s resolution in opposition to the bill says he’s worried Senate Bill 590 will increase law enforcement costs and could give Hoosiers an image that would discourage employers or employees from coming to the state.
“We have companies in town that compete on a global basis,” he says, “and we have just an enormous fear that Senate Bill 590 is really, really going to hurt the ability to recruit.”
A response from higher education
Indiana University Spokesperson Larry MacIntyre says that it is a concern for the university in terms of attracting both employees and students.
“IU at any given time,” he says, “will…probably have from 6,500 to 7,000 international students. We probably have several hundred faculty members who are foreign born and not U.S. citizens although they are all here legally of course. And we also in any given year probably have hundreds of international students here on our campuses.”
MacIntyre says students and faculty have already approached the university with concerns about the bill, but Delph says there is no reason for individuals to be concerned they’ll face any additional hassle.
“Again, I mean this is an important point,” he says, “most people don’t understand this: Its existing federal law for professors or for anybody who is visiting our country on any kind of visa to keep that documentation on their person that establishes their lawful presence to be here. So if someone comes here and they over stay they are technically an illegal immigrant. If someone comes here unlawfully without a visa or passport they are an illegal immigrant and are outside of the law. I would think that somebody in that situation would want to have their status recognized above those that break the law.”
A drop in citizen action against crime?
Local leaders also expressed concerns that if the bill becomes law it could lead to immigrants feeling ill at ease around law enforcement officers. Prosecutor Chris Gaal says he’s concerned the law might lead to a reduction in an individual’s willingness to report violent crime.
“We want crime victims to come forward and not be afraid of the justice system,” Gaal says, “to be willing to testify as a witness at trial so we can hold violent criminals accountable. It doesn’t matter what their immigration status is, we’re concerned with the violent crime that occurred because we don’t want crimes of violence to go unreported.”
More cost to law enforcement agencies
Gaal says SB 590 puts local law enforcement officers in a punitive role—a function Sheriff Jim Kennedy says he thinks, in the case of immigration, should remain a federal responsibility.
“It again imposes a mandate upon local authorities that’s not funded,” he says, “and those types of things in my opinion are not well thought out, secondly I don’t think it’s a necessary law.”
Delph says he thinks crimes against undocumented individuals are already significantly unreported and hopes his bill will help to stop that.
Right now,” Delph says, “we’ve allowed a shadow world to develop where people are brought into modern day American slavery outside the rule of law where they may make a better life for themselves and their family than where they come from but its not up to American standards and then we ask our fellow citizen to compete with the importation of that 3rd world standard and so I think there are a lot of injustices with the status quo there are a lot of human rights abuses that go on because of the failure of the federal government to enforce the law.”
The bill has already passed a vote in the Senate.