Weakened Indiana immigration bill moves on

Chief backer of original bill wishes bill had gotten fewer amendments

April 15, 2011

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An Indiana House committee Friday barely passed an immigration reform bill, even after the bill’s most controversial provision had been removed.

In a 6 to 5 vote along party lines, the House Public Policy Committee approved Senate Bill 590, which now moves to the full Indiana House for consideration next week. The bill no longer includes a provision that would allow state and local police to question anyone they suspect is in the United States illegally. That section was similar to a law passed in Arizona last summer. The Arizonan measure has been blocked from implementation by a federal judge.

But it is possible representatives could try to amend SB 590 before the full House votes during second and third readings. If the bill survives that process, it will move back to the Indiana Senate. That’s where the bill’s original sponsor, state senator Michael Delph, a Republican from suburban Indianapolis, is lukewarm to his now watered-down proposal.

“I introduced a bill that I wanted to see become law,” Delph said Friday in Indianapolis. “This is not that bill.”

Political blogs and news reports now speculate that the bill could fail passage because it’s been altered too much.

If support does fall short, it would mark the fourth consecutive year that Delph tried but failed to move a “get tough” immigration bill through the Indiana legislature. That’s despite the fact that, unlike in previous years, Delph’s own party, the GOP, controls both the Indiana House and the Indiana Senate. Republicans have not warmed up to Delph’s original bill, which opponents had argued would open police to charges of racial profiling. One Republican committee member, Rep. Tom Knollman, said he would have voted against the original bill. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, also a Republican, does not support granting police the ability to question those suspected of being in the country illegally. His priority in the immigration reform debate is to target businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

But Delph says getting police involved is now allowed under federal law.

“The most controversial part of this bill, at least according to press accounts, has been with this issue with enforcement with law enforcement,” Delph told the House committee at a hearing Thursday. “The Congress in its wisdom gave state and local governments several years ago the power to use state and local enforcement basically as a force multiplier. That’s part of the bill.”

The revised House bill would revoke certain tax credits for businesses that hire illegal immigrants and would check the immigration status of criminal offenders. It also would require the calculation of how much money illegal immigration costs the state; then, the state would send a bill to to the U.S. Congress for reimbursement.