Immigrant backlash could reach Statehouse

January 3, 2008
Indiana might be one of the next states to consider legislation that places the burden of screening illegal immigrants on business.

At least one such bill is likely to be introduced in the General Assembly, said George Raymond, an Indiana Chamber of Commerce lobbyist specializing in labor relations.

"It stands a fairly good chance," Raymond said.

An Arizona law that went into effect Tuesday holds businesses accountable for hiring illegal immigrants. Businesses can lose their licenses for knowingly hiring the immigrants.

The Arizona law is being blamed for prompting a wave of layoffs as fearful businesses double-check employees' status.

Colorado and Georgia have similar laws on the books.

In Indiana, such legislation likely would gain widespread support in both the House and Senate because Hoosiers are ranking immigration close to such hot-button issues as jobs and health care, Raymond said.

Passage would force businesses to look closely at immigration status while keeping another eye on avoiding discrimination lawsuits, he said.

Immigration in Indiana is exploding.

Indiana's foreign-born population increased 41.3 percent, to 263,607, between 2000 and 2006, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute. That was enough to rank the state 10th in the nation.

However, the nonpartisan not-for-profit group did not specify how many of the immigrants are illegal.
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