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Could Indiana adopt a law like Arizona's?

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Following Arizona’s passage of a law that would allow local and state law enforcement to arrest people on suspicion that they are living in the United States as illegal immigrants, a number of lawsuits were filed in response to the law, Senate Bill 1070. Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer on April 23 signed the law, which will go into effect July 28.

An Indiana senator has since stated he will propose a similar bill during the 2011 legislative session. Meanwhile, immigration attorneys and victims advocates are reading up on the Arizona law and bracing themselves for what a similar bill in Indiana could mean for their clients.

Perhaps the most significant of the lawsuits is Friendly House, et al. v. Michael B. Whiting, et al., filed June 4 by a civil rights coalition, which aims to stop the law from going into effect until it is reviewed for constitutionality.

Immigration main Angelin Fisher, a staff attorney for Indianapolis-based Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic’s immigration team, left facing camera, discusses a case with her clients with the help of paralegal and interpreter Andrea Lindquist, far right. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

That coalition includes the American Civil Liberties Union, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Immigration Law Center, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, ACLU of Arizona, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The American Bar Association publicly supported the civil rights coalition when it filed an amicus brief in the case June 30.

Josh Abel Mug Abel

“While the ABA typically files amicus briefs only in the highest federal or state court that will consider a matter, the ABA believes the issues before this Court are of such significance to the American people and the practice of law that they must be addressed at this stage of the proceedings,” the ABA wrote in the brief.

The ABA stated four concerns arising from the Arizona law – the potential for racial profiling by law enforcement; detention of citizens and non-citizens; how the bill would affect the justice system, particularly for indigent defendants; and how the state law could conflict with existing federal laws.

In Indiana, Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, announced he plans to introduce similar legislation during the 2011 session. During the 2009 and 2010 sessions, he introduced bills that would have required the Department of Correction to evaluate and report citizenship and immigration status of committed offenders. In 2009 and 2010, each bill respectively passed the Senate: 37-13 in 2009 and 46-4 in 2010. But both bills died in House committees.

Meanwhile, immigration attorneys and victims advocates have expressed their concerns.

Angelin Fisher, an attorney for the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis, represents clients on their immigration cases, including applications for U-Visas and visas under the Violence Against Women Act, both of which are for immigrants who are witnesses and victims of crimes.

She has been working closely with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to collect information about how immigrants have helped law enforcement by reporting crimes.

While a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said they would not comment for this article, Fisher said there were almost 300 U-Visas pending in Marion County alone.

She said if a bill similar to the Arizona immigration bill were to pass in Indiana, “it would have a chilling effect” on how immigrants have been interacting with law enforcement in reporting and preventing crime.

Josh Abel, NCLC executive director, agreed.

“I can say our Immigrants in Crisis Program is incredibly important because it gives a voice to some of the most marginalized people in our community. If you are an immigrant without status who is a victim of a violent crime or domestic violence, without the possibility of a U-Visa or VAWA Visa, you won’t be encouraged to report that crime. If we had a law like the one in Arizona, forget it, you won’t get victims to report crimes.”

To help encourage communication between immigrants who don’t trust law enforcement due to experiences in their native countries, and law enforcement officers, Fisher has also supported outreach efforts in other counties, including Tippecanoe and Bartholomew.

Melody Goldberg Goldberg

Melody Goldberg, director of the Migrant Farmworker Law Center of Indiana Legal Services, also regularly interacts with immigrants, including many who permanently live in the U.S. but are from Mexico and other countries.

Even without a law like Arizona’s in place in Indiana, she said, the workers already have misconceptions.

She said that most immigrants will not take the time to read the entire bill and will likely base their perceptions of the law on rumors and what the media reports.

Fisher added the Arizona law could also affect how non-profit organizations interact with undocumented workers. This concern was discussed at a conference for domestic violence victims advocates in Arizona this spring.

Advocates at that conference were concerned that the law could affect how domestic violence shelters screen their victims. This was also a concern for shelters and agencies who regularly work with hotels because hotel owners might no longer agree to house victims when the shelters are full.

kerry blomquist Blomquist

Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, legal director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence shared her concerns for victims of domestic violence who fear being deported if they report their abusers to law enforcement.

“From our perspective, such a law would be illegal,” she said via e-mail. “Indiana has a victim’s rights statute which says, in part, that all ‘victims have the right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.’ Victims also have a codified right to be ‘free from intimidation, harassment and abuse’ according to this same code section: Indiana Code 35-40-5. If we make calling the police or seeking personal safety, or asking that the laws of this great country be enforced – if we make these actions unfathomable for fear of persecution, then it truly is open season on all those who don’t ‘look like they come from here.’”

Fisher has also noticed the fears her clients have expressed.

A woman from Latin America who is now in the U.S. legally but has been working with Fisher to help her husband and children also receive legal status, spoke through an NCLC interpreter for this article.

While the client was grateful for the work Fisher and NCLC have done, her expression changed dramatically when asked about the Arizona law.

If a similar law were to pass here, the interpreter said, the client feared that her husband would be picked up by the police, she wouldn’t know or be able to contact him. She would also be left alone to take care of her five children.

The client also added she hoped President Barack Obama would address immigration reform. He did talk about the need for comprehensive immigration reform during a speech July 1 at American University School of International Service.

While it remains to be seen whether or how the Arizona law will affect immigrants in that state, and whether or if a similar law would pass in Indiana, Fisher said she doubted any immigration attorney would think it’s a good idea.

“They are coming here because they feel welcome,” Abel added. “If we shut the door with a harsh law like the one in Arizona, it would be an unfortunate situation in central Indiana. It would greatly affect the workforce, the fabric of our society.”•

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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