Observations of immigration bill hearing

February 10, 2011
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Reporter Rebecca Berfanger submitted this post.

Because the Indiana Lawyer’s immigration law focus section is coming in March, and because, as are many Hoosiers, I’m interested in a Senate bill similar to the law passed in Arizona regarding immigrants, I attended part of Wednesday afternoon’s Senate Committee on Pensions and Labor hearing on Senate Bill 590.

While I expected many people there both supporting and opposing the bill that, among other things, would require only English be used for certain communications, the office of management and budget to determine how much illegal immigrants cost Indiana, and police officers to determine the immigration status of offenders, as well as punish “employers who knowingly employ unauthorized aliens,” I was slightly underwhelmed.

From the buildup this hearing had received, I expected more people, like me, who were there to observe but could only stand in the hallway. There were maybe 40 or 50 of us, not a tiny number but not the hundreds I expected. Then again, I wasn’t allowed in the Senate gallery – it was full before I arrived – and the Senate chamber also looked full. Of those in the chamber, it was difficult to tell who were senators or their staff members, who was there to testify, and who may have been there merely to observe.

While it might have been interesting to sit in the gallery to observe the observers, I decided early in the day that I didn’t have 30 minutes or an hour to sit and wait to guarantee a comfortable spot. For those who do have that time, maybe they deserve those spots more than I do. When the bill comes before the full Senate or, possibly, the House, maybe I’ll plan to get there a little earlier to get a better viewing spot. Better yet, maybe I’ll stay in the office and watch it online like I normally do.

There were a few protestors holding signs in the hall outside of the Senate chambers. “Yes I’m American but I’m no fascist” and “Welcome to Indiana, home of the Superbowl where you will be racially profiled” caught my eye. While these posters may have received the attention of those in the chamber, the bill still passed out of committee by a vote of 8 to 1.

Other observations: the hearing started about 15 minutes late (do these ever start on time?); a few senators came out into the hall to meet with constituents; it is approximately 200 degrees in the Statehouse; the veterans’ groups that spoke early about national security received cheers and applause, but those who were applauding were quickly reminded that no one is allowed to talk during a hearing except for those who are testifying; the TV outside of the Senate chamber did not show what was happening inside as I had hoped; the audio system in the hallway was either too loud or too quiet, depending on who was speaking; and a few people in the hallway who were there to protest the bill brought their young kids.

I couldn’t stay for the entire hearing – I had work to do back at the office and figured I’d follow up with a few of the key people later for my story – but these are worth checking out from time to time, if you have the time. They’re open to the public and free and always a good reminder of how state government works. Or you can watch it live online from the comfort of your desk.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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