INDIANAPOLIS | Arizona's controversial new law making federal immigration violations a state crime soon may come to Indiana.
State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, told The Times Wednesday that if Congress and the Obama administration do not act on illegal immigration soon, he will introduce legislation when the General Assembly convenes in January, giving police in Indiana the power to enforce immigration laws.
"In the absence of some sort of federal action, we plan on addressing this in January," Delph said.
The Arizona law, which has attracted boycotts of the state from around the country, makes it a misdemeanor state crime for any foreign national to be in the state if he or she is not carrying citizenship documents and proof of lawful entry into the United States. Federal law already requires legal and illegal aliens to always carry these registration documents.
Delph said Indiana authorities should have similar powers to verify citizenship and lawful entry for suspected illegal immigrants, regardless of the controversy that may follow.
"People that really don't want the law enforced now are seeing that there are steps being taken to enforce the law, and so they're coming up with excuses why the law shouldn't be enforced," Delph said.
He said the boycotts of Arizona are "shameful political pandering" and reflect a "gross ignorance of existing federal law."
But Tony Barreda, chairman of the East Chicago-based Community Coalition for Immigrants, who has already led protests of the Arizona law in Hammond and Chicago, said what Arizona politicians have done and what Delph is considering doing is nothing more than "pure, unadulterated political posturing.
"To do this in Indiana where we're strapped economically, you can bet your life there will be a major movement here as far as boycotting the state itself," Barreda said.
The best solution would be to legalize the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States, he said. Then they will pay taxes and be able to move legitimately across the border.