INDIANAPOLIS — Five years after Hoosier business, tourism and community leaders united to water down restrictive anti-immigration legislation modeled on a controversial Arizona law, the Republican-controlled Indiana Senate may be getting ready to try again.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, this month established the Senate Select Commission on Immigration Issues to study the impact of legal and illegal immigration on Indiana.
“The federal government’s ongoing refusal to enforce our nation’s immigration laws has real effects for every state, including Indiana,” Long said. “I’m hopeful this group of senators can find state-driven solutions to this problem.”
The five-member commission is set to meet six times between mid-March and early November. It’s expected to recommend policies for the General Assembly to consider approving during its 2017 session.
The panel is led by state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, who is known by the nickname “El Diablo,” or “The Devil,” among Hoosier Hispanics for his repeated efforts to limit immigration by punishing businesses that hire undocumented workers.
Delph also was sponsor of the original 2011 proposal requiring local police verify the immigration status of any person that an officer suspected was in the country illegally and mandating that English be used for all government business.
Long said he chose Delph to lead the immigration study, because Delph is “the resident expert on this issue in the Senate.”
The other Republicans on the panel are state Sens. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, and Chip Perfect, R-Lawrenceburg.
The commission is tasked with reviewing nine issues, including: the effect of “unauthorized aliens” on the state’s economy, security and workforce; whether undocumented workers are paid less than minimum wage; what actions Indiana can take to limit immigration; and what immigration policies the federal government should implement to help states.
State Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, one of two commission Democrats, said the agenda clearly is “stacked” in favor of immigration opponents.
“There are a lot of them that are very militant on immigration; you see it on the federal level, you see it at the state level,” Mrvan said. “It doesn’t seem like the questions they have are very fair.”
The final commission member, state Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, said he intends to bring up topics like access to health care and education that Hoosier Latinos have told Senate Democrats are what matter to their community.
“Our caucus has regular meetings with Latino stakeholders, so I am grateful for the appointment to this bipartisan committee,” Arnold said. “I’m hopeful we can address the issues those stakeholders have presented to us during this new discussion on immigration.”
Federal court rulings generally have prohibited states from inserting themselves in immigration matters since the U.S. Constitution reserves regulation of foreign policy, international commerce and naturalization to the federal government.