Indiana's proposed immigration bill no longer includes an Arizona-style provision that would have allowed police to ask people for proof of immigration status if they suspected they were in the country illegally.
The House Public Policy Committee on Thursday removed several sections of the bill proposed by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel. The committee plans to take a vote Friday on the bill, which would still revoke certain tax credits for businesses that hire illegal immigrants, check the immigration status of criminal offenders, require Indiana to seek reimbursement from Congress for the costs of illegal immigration and implement other changes.
"There are a lot of good things remaining in the bill," Delph said.
The changes made Thursday are in line with what Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels wants. Earlier in the year, Daniels declined to take a public stance on the bill, which had been opposed by the conservative Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana's Republican attorney general and others.
Delph, who has proposed bills to crack down on illegal immigration for years, said he was glad to hear Daniels take a stand.
"The governor's been missing in action for four years," Delph said. "I'm glad that he finally got out of his ivory tower and weighed in on this issue."
Last week, House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican, also said he had concerns about parts of the bill.
If the revised bill eventually clears the GOP-led House, it would go back to the Republican-ruled Senate for consideration of the changes.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday that many senators agree with the new changes, and suggested the Senate could simply agree to the House version instead of trying to hammer out a compromise. Delph said he would talk to his fellow Senate Republicans about whether to concur with the House version once the House finishes its work on the proposal.
Opponents of Delph's original bill told lawmakers Thursday that removing the Arizona-style provision was an improvement. Critics had worried that that part of the bill would have led to racial profiling and would have sent a message that Indiana is not a welcoming place — a message they argued would hurt tourism and companies looking to recruit an international workforce.
Agriculture officials said they still oppose the bill and noted that Indiana farmers rely on migrant workers to pick crops like tomatoes and melons. Several opponents argued that Congress should be responsible for immigration, which they said was a federal issue that shouldn't be tackled in 50 different ways at the state level.
"It has to be a national solution," said John Livengood, a lobbyist who represents restaurant and hospitality groups and who is co-chair of the Alliance for Immigration Reform in Indiana.
Supporters of Delph's bill included some who argued that illegal immigrants were taking jobs away from American citizens and others who came to the country legally. Marty Upton, who came to America from Germany years ago and now lives in Carmel, said immigrants should follow legal paths to come to the U.S.
"I am proud to be an American," she said. "We are a nation of laws."