Study committee takes look at Indiana immigration laws

An Indiana Senate study committee on Tuesday started its six-month-long look into the impact of costs and benefits of immigration to the state.

“We not only have a right to know who is in our country, and for what purpose, we have a duty to know, to protect ourselves, our families and our neighbors from the next event,” Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said in his opening remarks.

Delph, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Select Commission on Immigration Issues, started the meeting by saying the committee will use the terms “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” to describe individuals who were in the country unlawfully. He said these terms were considered legal terms and therefore should be used while discussing the issue.

“Should we call drug dealers undocumented pharmacists?” Delph asked. “We set a poor example by not holding lawbreakers accountable.”

The committee turned to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for advice on how to strengthen Indiana’s immigration laws.

Kobach said the state should enact measures to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and require all businesses to use E-Verify, a system that checks citizenship status for all employees.

Dale Wilcox, a spokesperson with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, agreed with Kobach and said Indiana needs to take action where the federal government has failed to do so.

“The American public is demanding that government at all levels take the necessary steps to protect American jobs and taxpayers from a burden placed upon them by years of inconsistent and often lax immigration enforcement,” Wilcox said.

Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, said he did not understand why Republicans wanted to add new regulations to Indiana businesses. He was skeptical as to whether some businesses, especially agriculture businesses, could survive if Indiana strengthened its immigration laws.

“We’ve waited too long to do anything about immigration,” Mrvan said. “The economy would be just destroyed.”

The committee is set to meet five more times before the start of the 2016 legislative session. Some are concerned the discussion could end up being a partisan one, but Delph said he plans for the committee to do a fair and thorough review of Indiana’s immigration laws throughout the process.

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