Lawmakers should take notice when broad swaths of society increasingly register opposition to pending legislation, and the immigration reform bill before the General Assembly is one such example.
A growing coalition of business, educational, government and religious leaders is supporting the Indiana Compact, a guideline for discussing state immigration issues that calls for a federal solution and questions not only the tone of the debate but also the bill that passed the Senate and now is under consideration in the House.
As of last week, the compact had attracted more than 3,600 signatories. What matters more than the number, though, is the cross section of Hoosiers.
Some are household names locally: Greg Zoeller, Terry Curry, Ed Delaney, Bill Hudnut, Roland Dorson, Ellen Annala, Craig Huse, Daniel Buechlein. Others are students, nurses, architects, farmers. Michael Workman, of Kokomo, described his status as unemployed.
As the compact notes, it isn’t difficult to understand the frustration with illegal immigration that motivated the bill. Arizona, California and other states are struggling to fund social services and education for illegal immigrants, and a porous border is no way to keep a nation safe from terrorists. Blue-collar workers, in particular, worry about the competition for jobs.
But the Indiana bill, which asks police officers to ask someone for proof of immigration status if the officer has reasonable suspicion that they are in the country illegally, is a recipe for all kinds of trouble. Police shouldn’t be forced to make the judgment calls, and Latinos and others who are here legally shouldn’t be made to feel harassed.
Other reasons for rejecting the bill also bear repeating.
Business interests oppose the Arizona-style immigration bill for its potential to send an unwelcoming message. The convention trade, a key industry in Indianapolis, would risk the kind of ostracism that prompted Arizona lawmakers to backpedal recently on toughening the state’s already stringent regulations. Large employers have weighed in with similar concerns.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has said the bill would be expensive to defend in the face of an all-but-certain federal challenge.
Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, frets the legislation would harm the state’s image and wouldn’t end illegal immigration, anyway.
And as an example of the opposition from religious groups, the Mennonite Church USA, which is headquartered in Elkhart, says the bill runs counter to the command to love one’s neighbors.
Indiana isn’t the only state considering tightening its illegal immigration statutes. But lawmakers here and elsewhere should put their battles on hold and lean on President Obama and Congress to address the matter comprehensively.
Maybe the best thing that could come from the Democrats’ detour to Illinois would be for this bill to die.•
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