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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. I will continue to pray that God keeps giving you the strength and courage to keep fighting for what is right and just so you are aware, you are an inspiration to those that are feeling weak and helpless as they are trying to figure out why evil keeps winning. God Bless.....

  2. Some are above the law in Indiana. Some lined up with Lodges have controlled power in the state since the 1920s when the Klan ruled Indiana. Consider the comments at this post and note the international h.q. in Indianapolis. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/human-trafficking-rising-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/42468. Brave journalists need to take this child torturing, above the law and antimarriage cult on just like The Globe courageously took on Cardinal Law. Are there any brave Hoosier journalists?

  3. I am nearing 66 years old..... I have no interest in contacting anyone. All I need to have is a nationality....a REAL Birthday...... the place U was born...... my soul will never be at peace. I have lived my life without identity.... if anyone can help me please contact me.

  4. This is the dissent discussed in the comment below. See comments on that story for an amazing discussion of likely judicial corruption of some kind, the rejection of the rule of law at the very least. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/justices-deny-transfer-to-child-custody-case/PARAMS/article/42774#comment

  5. That means much to me, thank you. My own communion, to which I came in my 30's from a protestant evangelical background, refuses to so affirm me, the Bishop's courtiers all saying, when it matters, that they defer to the state, and trust that the state would not be wrong as to me. (LIttle did I know that is the most common modernist catholic position on the state -- at least when the state acts consistent with the philosophy of the democrat party). I asked my RCC pastor to stand with me before the Examiners after they demanded that I disavow God's law on the record .... he refused, saying the Bishop would not allow it. I filed all of my file in the open in federal court so the Bishop's men could see what had been done ... they refused to look. (But the 7th Cir and federal judge Theresa Springmann gave me the honor of admission after so reading, even though ISC had denied me, rendering me a very rare bird). Such affirmation from a fellow believer as you have done here has been rare for me, and that dearth of solidarity, and the economic pain visited upon my wife and five children, have been the hardest part of the struggle. They did indeed banish me, for life, and so, in substance did the the Diocese, which treated me like a pariah, but thanks to this ezine ... and this is simply amazing to me .... because of this ezine I am not silenced. This ezine allowing us to speak to the corruption that the former chief "justice" left behind, yet embedded in his systems when he retired ... the openness to discuss that corruption (like that revealed in the recent whistleblowing dissent by courageous Justice David and fresh breath of air Chief Justice Rush,) is a great example of the First Amendment at work. I will not be silenced as long as this tree falling in the wood can be heard. The Hoosier Judiciary has deep seated problems, generational corruption, ideological corruption. Many cases demonstrate this. It must be spotlighted. The corrupted system has no hold on me now, none. I have survived their best shots. It is now my time to not be silent. To the Glory of God, and for the good of man's law. (It almost always works that way as to the true law, as I explained the bar examiners -- who refused to follow even their own statutory law and violated core organic law when banishing me for life -- actually revealing themselves to be lawless.)

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