INDIANAPOLIS | A federal appeals judge issued a ruling Friday blocking portions of Indiana’s immigration law and declaring it unconstitutional.
Judge Sarah Evans Barker, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, ruled Senate Enrolled Act 590 “runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment” because it authorizes state and local law enforcement officers to “effect warrantless arrest for matters that are not crimes.” The law had never gone into effect because Barker previously issued an injunction against it.
Signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2011, the law permitted local law enforcement officers to make warrantless arrests of people in possession of certain immigration-related documents — even though possession of those documents is not a crime. Additionally, the law made it illegal to use identification cards issued by consulates of foreign countries, required most Indiana businesses to check the immigration status of new employees and forbade the distribution of state aid to illegal immigrants.
On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s immigration statute but upheld the part that allows police to check the immigration status of someone they stop, detain or arrest for some other legitimate reason.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller subsequently announced the following month he no longer would defend most of Indiana’s law imposing the new restrictions on illegal immigrants.
Zoeller issued a news release Friday in response to Judge Barker’s ruling.
“Now that the federal court decision reinforces what we said all along — that immigration enforcement is a federal government not a state responsibility — the case is at an end and the state will not appeal. We are pleased that Judge Barker’s ruling has underscored and reiterated the responsibility of my office to defend state statutes as is our solemn obligation," Zoeller said.
It’s unknown how Barker's ruling will affect a civil lawsuit brought against state and region officials by East Chicago-based Hispanic cultural organization Union Benefica Mexicana. The organization is challenging some provisions of Senate Enrolled Act 590, primarily on the basis of employment, as unconstitutional and in violation of civil liberties.
As it relates to the Union Benefica Mexicana complaint, the law 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 and prohibits Indiana residents, in most circumstances, from transporting groups of illegal immigrants.
Zoeller's release said the attorney general’s office continues to defend the state immigration statue against the separate legal challenge brought by Union Benefica Mexicana.
Zoeller’s public information officer could not be reached for clarification on the status of the Union Benefica Mexicana lawsuit, as the state office was closed for the Good Friday holiday.
Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, also issued a statement on Judge Barker’s decision: “This ruling demonstrates that the Constitution applies to all Indiana residents and that the state cannot presume to regulate immigration.”