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Judge grills attorney for state over immigration law

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A federal judge grilled an attorney for the state of Indiana on Monday about the state's new immigration law, questioning how police would enforce the law and saying one of its provisions conflicts with federal law.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker heard 90 minutes of oral arguments on civil rights groups' request for a preliminary injunction blocking contested portions of the law. Barker said she would rule before the law passed by legislators in April takes effect July 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the National Immigration Law Center sued the state over the law in May, contending it gives police sweeping arrest powers against immigrants who have not committed any crime.

The state attorney general's office argues such fears are exaggerated and based on misunderstanding of the law.

The civil rights groups aren't fighting all provisions of Indiana's wide-ranging law, but are contesting provisions allowing police to arrest immigrants under certain conditions, including if they face a removal order issued by an immigration court.

Their lawsuit argues some of those conditions are too broad, can apply widely to thousands of immigrants and violate the constitutional requirement of probable cause.

Ken Falk, an attorney for the ACLU of Indiana, told Barker the law also would allow police to arrest anyone who has been indicted or convicted of an aggravated felony — regardless of whether that person was cleared, released on bail or already served their sentence.

"It's not a crime to be indicted on a felony," he said. "No matter how you look at it, it allows people to be arrested for things that are not crimes."

The civil rights groups also contend the law's wording would allow the arrest of anyone who has had a notice of action filed by immigration authorities, a formal paperwork step that affects virtually anyone applying to be in the U.S. for any reason.

Barker peppered deputy attorney general Betsy Isenberg with questions about how police officers would enforce the law given those concerns and what she said is the reality that it can take up to two weeks to get answers from federal immigration officials on specific cases — time a person arrested under the law would spend in jail, waiting for immigration officials to bring law enforcement up to date on their case.

"Two weeks is a small price to pay, is that what you're saying?" Barker asked Isenberg, adding that "it's not exactly an easy thing to get a quick response" from immigration officials.

The judge said she's concerned about how the state's police officers — from sheriff's deputies to small town police — would enforce the new law. Barker also raised the possibility that an officer upset that a judge had released on bail a person facing a felony indictment could use the law to thumb his nose at the judiciary and re-arrest that person.

"The police officer could say, 'Watch this judge!'" she said.

Indiana's new law also includes a provision making it illegal for immigrants to use ID cards issued by foreign consulates as proof of identification. Falk told Barker he estimates the Mexican consulate in Indianapolis has issued about 70,000 such ID cards and they are "highly secure documents."

He said Indiana's law targeting those ID cards would interfere with foreign treaties allowing those documents.

Under questioning from Barker, Isenberg conceded the ID card provision conflicts with the Treasury Department's use of those ID cards for bank transactions. Barker then asked Isenberg why federal law wouldn't supersede Indiana's new law.

"We have a conflict. We have a direct conflict," she told Isenberg.

State immigration enforcement laws have not recently fared well in federal courts.

A federal judge blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona's law last year before it took effect. A federal appeals court upheld the decision, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has said she plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last month, a Utah law giving police the authority to arrest anyone who cannot prove their citizenship was put on hold by a federal judge 14 hours after it went into effect. The next hearing there is scheduled in July.

And in Georgia, a federal judge on Monday heard arguments on whether that state's law can take effect next month. Like in Indiana, that judge listened to the arguments and said he'd likely rule before the law is set to take effect July 1.

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  • Immigration Law
    So the law is unconstitutional because the federal government is inept and takes too long to get information it should have been following up on to begin with? Maybe if it spent less time going after the states for trying to solve the problem it could help enforce its own already existing laws. It seems as though Judge Barker has her mind made up.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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