Constitutionality of Indiana immigration law still unresolved

2012-06-25T19:00:00Z 2012-08-14T19:39:05Z Constitutionality of Indiana immigration law still unresolvedBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | A Northwest Indiana Hispanic social services organization will continue its legal challenge to the state's 2011 immigration law after a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday involving a similar Arizona law left the constitutionality of most provisions of the Indiana law unresolved.

Indiana's Senate Enrolled Act 590 bans illegal immigrants from receiving state welfare benefits, requires businesses to reimburse Indiana for unemployment payments to illegal workers, mandates state contractors verify the immigration status of their employees, declares consular identification cards are not legitimate ID and prohibits Hoosiers, in most circumstances, from transporting groups of illegal immigrants.

Attorney Alonzo Rivas, representing East Chicago's Union Benefica Mexicana, said the Arizona v. U.S. ruling did not answer whether Indiana's restrictions on hiring and the clawback of unemployment payments are constitutional.

"The case at the Supreme Court dealt more specifically with law enforcement, whereas our issues deal more with employment," Rivas said.

The law enforcement provisions of Indiana's law, which include authorizing police to communicate with federal officials on immigration issues, verify the immigration status of convicted and incarcerated criminals, provide notice to federal officials if day laborers do not complete a federal employment authorization form and arrest a person for an immigration violation if directed to do so by federal authorities, appear to pass constitutional muster.

The 5-3 ruling by the nation's high court said similar provisions in Arizona's law are acceptable because the state's law appropriately defers to the federal government's superior authority to regulate immigration matters.

Though attorney Kenneth Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union, which also sued to stop enforcement of the Hoosier immigration law, said Indiana's statute is still unconstitutional.

"As a whole, the decision appears to reinforce the proposition that immigration is the sole province of the federal government and states do not have a role," Falk said.

State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, the sponsor of Indiana's immigration law, said the state had no choice but to regulate immigration because the federal government has failed to do so.

"Presidents from both parties have pandered for political reasons, and now the court is once again suggesting the federal government enforce the law," Delph said. "As long as the law remains unenforced, states like Indiana will bear real taxpayer expense -- this is an unfunded mandate."

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said his office is reviewing the Supreme Court's ruling and will revise its defense of Indiana's law as needed.

"The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision provides valuable guidance to Indiana and other states in the proper role we serve in cooperation with the federal government in enforcing immigration laws," Zoeller said. "After thorough review, we plan to advise Indiana's legislature of any necessary changes to our current statutes."

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