Latino group joins lawsuits against Indiana over immigration law

December 22, 2011

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(AP photo)
Indiana State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, was the driving force behind Indiana's immigration law this year.

La Union Benefica Mexican has been around for decades in Northwest Indiana.

The East Chicago-based not-for-profit group has been hosting its annual Mexican Independence Day parade for years.

And, the group, known as the UBM for short, promotes Mexican culture and traditions throughout the year with events and gatherings.

But the UBM is taking a more serious tone in joining a federal lawsuit against Indiana’s anti-illegal immigration law, SB 590.

Although adopted last Spring by the Indiana General Assembly, certain provisions of S.B. 590 have yet to take effect since a federal judge’s injunction kicked in last summer.

Still, Antonio Barreda, head of the UBM, says the bill discriminates against Latinos, not just those who may be in the United States illegally.

“The law itself could violate not only immigrants but American citizens such as I and many others,” Barreda told WBEZ on Wednesday. “It also gives businesses the opportunity to become even more discriminatory by not hiring Hispanics.”

Barreda said UBM is join in its lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis.

In a written statement, MALDEF says the bill “poses severe and immediate threats to the United States Constitution and to the livelihood of anyone who 'looks' to local authorities like an undocumented immigrant.”

“This challenge is necessary to send a message to anti-immigrant groups that their efforts to pass Arizona-style legislation in the Midwest are not welcome and will be resisted,” Alonzo Rivas, MALDEF Midwest Regional Counsel said in a statement.

The Republican-controlled Indiana State House pushed S.B. 590, although many Hoosier Democrats supported the measure which drew harsh criticism and protest by those opposed to it.

Several more controversial aspects were nixed from the bill, such as giving an Indiana State Trooper the right to pull over anyone who appeared to be an undocumented immigrant.

But other provisions, primarily against businesses who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants, remain in the law.

The bill is already being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Indiana is seeking to delay hearings on all challenges to the bill until the U.S. Supreme Court decides Arizona’s own tough immigration law.

“We will be seeking a stay in this case in addition to the previous case while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge to Arizona’s immigration statute. Indiana will join with other states in seeking a ruling from the Supreme Court that will provide some guidance to states on immigration since Congress has thus far failed to enact or enforce federal immigration policies,” Zoeller said in a statement to WBEZ on Tuesday.

IN December, the U.S. Supreme Court announced plans to hear the case challenging Arizona’s immigration law this spring.