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Indiana House considers watered-down immigration bill

An Indiana House committee will vote Friday on a bill that imposes tax penalties against businesses who hire illegal immigrants. But that bill is a far cry from what Republican lawmakers originally wanted.  That tougher bill that would have allowed police to stop anyone they suspected of being an illegal immigrant, but civil rights groups opposed that so-called “Arizona-style” provision.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels didn’t support either, but some ordinary Hoosiers did.

Many voiced support for the tougher bill at a three-hour hearing before the Indiana House Public Policy Committee today in Indianapolis.

Bill Webster, who lives in the Indianapolis area, told the committee that since the federal government hasn’t dealt with the issue, Indiana should.

“When they are taking our jobs and they are hurting our economy and weighing down our system, it’s a Hoosier problem and we need to do something about it,” Webster said.

But others, like East Chicago immigration activist Antonio “Tony” Barreda, say the bill only hurts those who work on Hoosier farms.

“Is that agricultural worker, that goes to work from sun up to sun down, and is dead tired, he’s a threat to national security?” Barreda said.  “Let’s get real.”

Even before today’s hearing got underway, the committee had already agreed to take the toughest provision of Senate Bill 590 out: the requirement that would have allowed police to stop and question anyone they suspected of being an illegal immigrant.

The bill now focuses on imposing tax penalties against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, a Democrat from Munster, says lawmakers should just leave the issue to Congress.

“I think that the amendments make a bad bill better,” Candelaria said. “But certainly I still believe that this is a federal responsibility that we should be using our role here and our chamber to put the pressure on the federal government that they do something to resolve this issue.”

The proposal would require Indiana to tally the costs of illegal immigration and seek reimbursement from the U.S. Congress.

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