Indiana senator suggests Arizona-like immigration law

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A state senator says Indiana should consider an immigration policy similar to Arizona's new law that makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally.

Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, told The Associated Press that he'll introduce some type of immigration legislation in Indiana if Congress and the Obama administration do not act soon on illegal immigration. Delph said he wants to see how the Arizona law plays out before determining the details of his proposal for Indiana.

"We should be watching Arizona, watching how they apply the law," Delph said.

Delph has proposed bills aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration before, but they've never won the approval from the General Assembly, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House.

About 55,000 to 85,000 illegal immigrants live in Indiana, according to 2006 estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center. Some critics of Delph's previous immigration proposals have said that Indiana's economy needs both legal and illegal immigrant workers to thrive.

The Arizona law, set to take effect July 29, makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It directs local police to question individuals already engaged in other possible crimes about their immigration status and request documentation if they suspect a person is in the country illegally.

Critics say the law encourages racial profiling and is unconstitutional, and several lawsuits seeking to block its implementation are pending in federal court. Several cities have urged boycotts against Arizona businesses to protest the law.

Arizona's governor has said the boycotts are misguided because the law mirrors a federal requirement that legal immigrants carry immigration papers. Delph said he believes Arizona's law is constitutional and said the boycotts are spurred by ignorance of existing federal law.

But Tony Barreda, chairman of the East Chicago-based Community Coalition for Immigrants, told The Times of Munster that protests would come to Indiana if the state enacted an Arizona-type proposal.

"To do this in Indiana where we're strapped economically, you can bet your life there will be a major movement here as far as boycotting the state itself," Barreda said.

Delph said he hopes to figure out details of his latest immigration proposal before the 2011 legislative session, which begins in January.

He wrote an opinion piece for Indiana newspapers saying both Republican and Democratic federal administrations have refused to enforce immigration laws and Congress has pandered to various ethnic groups.

"Until we have an administration and a Congress willing to take control of this situation, it will be up to the states to exercise the rights granted to them in federal law as Arizona has done," Delph wrote.

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