Illegal immigration bill heads to full Indiana Senate

Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Indianapolis)

Indianapolis - Indiana lawmakers are considering a crackdown on illegal immigration.

The bill, which proposes several changes to Indiana law regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws, passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday with a vote of 8-5. It now heads to the full Senate.

Changes made by the committee included requiring police to have probable cause to ask for proof of a person's immigration status. The original bill set a lower legal standard of reasonable suspicion.

Republican Sen. Tom Wyss of Fort Wayne joined all the committee's Democrats in voting against the bill. He said he believed the federal government should deal with immigration matters.

GOP Sen. Ed Charbonneau of Valparaiso voted to advance the bill, but said he worried about the harm such a law would do to the state's image.

Many of the stipulations in the bill would require businesses and government agencies to verify citizenship or immigration status before offering employment or benefits. It would require police to verify citizenship or immigration status "in certain situations." It would require that only English be used "with certain exceptions" in public meetings and in state matters.

The bill would require state police to work with the federal government so that state police employees can be trained to enforce federal immigration and customs laws. It also threatens the licenses of businesses who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

The projected cost of the bill is over $1 million. The text of the bill does not explain how the new stipulations would be funded.

Large employers and others have spoken out against the bill.

"Lilly and Cummins - I found it very interesting that they took the time to indicate presently their opposition to this bill and that they have strong concerns that this will negatively impact their ability to attract the kind of elite, high talent, highly educated, highly skilled employees that come from throughout the world," said Sen. John Broden (D-South Bend).

Some, including Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Catholic Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, have said immigration should be left to federal authorities.

But supporters like Sen. Mike Delph (R-Indianapolis) say illegal immigration is costing the state $608 million annually, and if the federal government won't crack down, then states should step in.

"Enforcing the law, holding people accountable, and at the same time being able to save money that we could then allocate to deserving groups would seem to be extremely good public policy," said Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Indianapolis).

The foreign-born share of Indiana's population has grown from 1.7% in 1990 to 4% in 2008. They paid $2.3 billion dollars in federal, state and local taxes in 2007 and had a purchasing power of $7.1 billion in 2009.

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