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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. Falk said “At this point, at this minute, we’ll savor this particular victory.” “It certainly is a historic week on this front,” Cockrum said. “What a delight ... “Happy Independence Day to the women of the state of Indiana,” WOW. So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)

  2. congratulations on such balanced journalism; I also love how fetus disposal affects women's health protection, as covered by Roe...

  3. It truly sickens me every time a case is compared to mine. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld my convictions based on a finding of “hidden threats.” The term “hidden threat” never appeared until the opinion in Brewington so I had no way of knowing I was on trial for making hidden threats because Dearborn County Prosecutor F Aaron Negangard argued the First Amendment didn't protect lies. Negangard convened a grand jury to investigate me for making “over the top” and “unsubstantiated” statements about court officials, not hidden threats of violence. My indictments and convictions were so vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals made no mention of hidden threats when they upheld my convictions. Despite my public defender’s closing arguments stating he was unsure of exactly what conduct the prosecution deemed to be unlawful, Rush found that my lawyer’s trial strategy waived my right to the fundamental error of being tried for criminal defamation because my lawyer employed a strategy that attempted to take advantage of Negangard's unconstitutional criminal defamation prosecution against me. Rush’s opinion stated the prosecution argued two grounds for conviction one constitutional and one not, however the constitutional true threat “argument” consistently of only a blanket reading of subsection 1 of the intimidation statute during closing arguments, making it impossible to build any kind of defense. Of course intent was impossible for my attorney to argue because my attorney, Rush County Chief Public Defender Bryan Barrett refused to meet with me prior to trial. The record is littered with examples of where I made my concerns known to the trial judge that I didn’t know the charges against me, I did not have access to evidence, all while my public defender refused to meet with me. Special Judge Brian Hill, from Rush Superior Court, refused to address the issue with my public defender and marched me to trial without access to evidence or an understanding of the indictments against me. Just recently the Indiana Public Access Counselor found that four over four years Judge Hill has erroneously denied access to the grand jury audio from my case, the most likely reason being the transcription of the grand jury proceedings omitted portions of the official audio record. The bottom line is any intimidation case involves an action or statement that is debatably a threat of physical violence. There were no such statements in my case. The Indiana Supreme Court took partial statements I made over a period of 41 months and literally connected them with dots… to give the appearance that the statements were made within the same timeframe and then claimed a person similarly situated would find the statements intimidating while intentionally leaving out surrounding contextual factors. Even holding the similarly situated test was to be used in my case, the prosecution argued that the only intent of my public writings was to subject the “victims” to ridicule and hatred so a similarly situated jury instruction wouldn't even have applied in my case. Chief Justice Rush wrote the opinion while Rush continued to sit on a committee with one of the alleged victims in my trial and one of the judges in my divorce, just as she'd done for the previous 7+ years. All of this information, including the recent PAC opinion against the Dearborn Superior Court II can be found on my blog www.danbrewington.blogspot.com.

  4. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  5. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

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