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Panel backs Indiana immigration crackdown bill

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An Indiana Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday night that its sponsor says would lead to an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration in the state.

The Senate Pensions and Labor Committee voted 8-1 to advance the proposal, which opponents attacked during a four-hour public hearing as opening the door for legitimizing racial profiling.

Dozens of people lined up to testify on the bill, just hours after Indiana's Republican attorney general said he had reservations about the state inserting itself into what is a federal responsibility.

The bill proposed by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, would require police to ask for proof of citizenship or immigration status if they had a reasonable suspicion that a person is illegally in the country.

Delph told the committee that the bill was aimed at putting teeth into existing laws.

"We say 'no more' to illegal immigration," he said. "We want the rule of law restored, period."

Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, said he didn't believe any committee members wanted to harm anyone's rights, but that legislators had a duty to uphold the laws that are in place and protect residents.

"I just think it is the right thing to do at this time," he said.

The only committee member to vote against the bill — Democratic Sen. Karen Tallian of Portage — said its proposals go to "ridiculous lengths" and were a "bazillion lawsuits waiting to happen."

Opponents outside the Senate chamber during the hearing held signs such as "Welcome to Indiana ... where you will be racially profiled."

Jose Salinas, a Marion County criminal court judge, challenged legislators who support the bill on whether they could understand being forced to prove their nationality.

Salinas said he feared police officers would rely on race, English fluency and last names to determine whom to question.

"Whether we want to believe it or not, human nature is what it is and the envelope is pushed all the time," Salinas said. "That always happens when these kind of laws are put forth."

Delph's original bill included a proposal that could have stripped companies who knowingly hire illegal immigrants of their business licenses after a third offense. That penalty had drawn opposition from business groups and the committee amended the bill to, instead, strip from offending companies whatever tax deductions were associated with each illegal immigrant.

Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, told the committee that the organization doesn't condone any improper hiring and that the revised penalty was far superior in that it wouldn't shut down businesses. He was still concerned an immigration crackdown could hurt the state's business climate.

"We have concerns in terms of economic development and the projection of an air of intolerance," Brinegar said.

Earlier Wednesday, state Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined business, religious and other leaders at a Statehouse event announcing support for what they called rational immigration reform principles.

That group's statement said immigration is a matter for the federal government. It calls for border security and respect for laws, but said that "law enforcement should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code."

Zoeller said taking on immigration enforcement might be "constitutionally suspect or fiscally impractical."

"It is a federal responsibility," he said. "It does us no good to try to assume the federal authority."

Bob Schrameyer, a leader of the Goshen group Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement, told the Senate committee that illegal immigration was at least partly to blame for Elkhart County's double-digit unemployment rate.

"Employers have found it far too easy to hire illegal workers, which not only drives down wages to improve their bottom line, but take unfair advantage of a minority group," Schrameyer said. "We are tired of the lawbreakers thumbing their proverbial noses at our system and we tire of the opponents of state immigration legislation continuing their lame claim that it's a federal problem."

Goshen police Chief Wade Branson described the immigration proposal as an unfunded mandate on police agencies by piling more responsibilities on them. He also said it might discourage some people from reporting crimes or cooperating with police for fear of facing deportation.

"This adds another layer of work, detracting from the officers available to investigate and solve other crimes and provide security for the neighborhoods," Branson said.

The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration of its financial costs.

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  • How racist/stereotypical of you.
    It's most likely a fact that the MAJORITY of the Hispanics living in Indiana are Mexicans or of Mexican descent but NOT ALL are Mexicans. Also Standing in line for a free Learn English book would be a huge hit since MOST of the first generation Hispanics wish to learn English. The reason why they don't learn is because A. English is in fact a very hard language to learn and B. Try learning a language at the age of 40+ by yourself(No Rosetta stone, costs too much.) or with a low funded inpatient school. =] BTW... America Is losing their jobs to Immigrants because they have to work so much harder than the Legal Lazy Fat Spoiled American and I say this with all authority since I am one of those Legal Lazy Fat Spoiled Americans who has had to work along side Illegal Immigrants Barely keeping up with their pace. Now NOT ALL American are Lazy Fat and Spoiled and NOT ALL Hispanics work like animals but the Majority are. I Love my Country America is proud, but I'm bias to Immigration since I'm a second generation Hispanic. I see my Dad strive to become legal, pay taxes(even when he was illegal.), and follow all the laws. God Help America.
  • WE THE PEOPLE
    Yes Indiana has the best and brightest ,we want to rid of the illegal crime,ID thieving,none tax paying,demanding,nor English speaking wave that has hit our state.We once had a beautiful town ,it is now etched in graffiti and has a mexican coke queen on the corner. Its a now sad ugly mess. Listen up CONGRESS You got there by we the people ,and you will go by WE THE PEOPLE.
  • Only difference...
    Illegal is the key word here. If that is what you are, then get out and come back legally. You stand in line for the free government assistance, would you stand in line for a"Learn English Free" book. Of course not, you have no interest in that. This is America not Mexico, if you want to be here, then try to be American. Go to Europe, Canada, let them get a taste of what we are enduring. I rent apts. and always you just accept that a lie comes out of the mouth first, and I did'nt use to profile anyone, but I now know about the Mexican way of thinking, and it will eventually ruin America.
    • immigration crackdown
      When are the leaders of this country going to relize that these "illegal immigrants" are/may be husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, sisters ,brothers with a legal citizen who love and care about them. They didnt make things any easier for those people with loved oned to become legal when they changed the law in 2001.Illegal immigrants from mexico and central america never flew a plane into the twin towers, why not spend more time focusing on our enemies, crack down on thier legal status??? make it harder for them to come here!
    • not really
      do not have a problem with gays; i was taught as a child who someone goes home to and what they do when they go to bed is none of my business. on illegals mexican or irish ; truck drivers are require to carry a long form medical,a passport ;a birth certificate and a license; and are required to take a roadside urine test at the request of any police officer in the usa. i do not believe it is such an issue for people to show proof of birth and citizenship. if a truck driver can do it ...how hard can it be?
    • Simply stated
      So, Bob, you want to get rid of all Gays and Mexicans? That's what your basically saying, right? Why not simply open up and quit hiding and say how you really feel?
      • white is stupid
        so you have to be illegal and gay to be bright...
        • truckers
          a truck driver has a drivers license. a long form medical exam ; birth certificate; and a passport. is subject to a random drug screen by an police dept in the country.... sowhat is the issue
        • Indiana GOP a disgrace
          Between this bill and the marriage discrimination amendment, looks like Indiana will be living up to its image on the national scene. Good luck Indy on attracting the best and the brightest.

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