SOUTH BEND — Community leaders gathered Saturday at La Casa de Amistad to protest Senate Bill 590, a proposed Arizona-style immigration law making its way through the Indiana General Assembly.
“We gather today as concerned members of the Michiana community, and as concerned Hoosiers ... to state that S.B. 590 is bad for Michiana and bad for Indiana,” said South Bend immigration attorney Rudy Monterrosa, a La Casa de Amistad board member.
Introduced by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, S.B. 590 would require police officers who stop a person suspected of breaking a law or ordinance to ask that person for proof of citizenship if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that he or she might be here illegally.
It also would require the state Office of Budget Management to estimate how much illegal immigration costs the state and send Congress a request for reimbursement; bar state and local governments from using a language other than English for correspondence; and strengthen penalties against businesses that employ illegal immigrants.
Along with members of the group Transforming Action into Power, Monterrosa said La Casa de Amistad opposes the bill based on the fact that it would encourage racial profiling and burden local governments with the task of enforcing federal immigration law.
“I learned in civics class that all people have equal protection under the law, and that everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” said Patricia Frazier, a TAP member and chair of the Peace and Justice Committee at Kern Road Mennonite Church, “and it’s those two values that are directly affected under this bill.”
On the topic of racial profiling, Frazier presented a scenario in which she and two of her friends — a South American man who speaks little English and an African man who speaks fluent English but with a Kenyan accent — are pulled over for speeding.
“Who risks being arrested by not carrying around the right papers?” she asked, adding, “And while the police officer is struggling to sort this out ... who is patrolling the neighborhood? Who is responding to the call of domestic violence, or a robbery in progress?”
“The bill will legalize racial profiling,” Monterrosa said.
Speaking as a member of the South Bend Common Council, meanwhile, Oliver Davis, D-District 6, said S.B. 590 would result in local governments having to spend money to enforce federal immigration law, which is technically the responsibility of the federal government.
“As a legislator here locally, I do not want to see state money or any city money used in an irresponsible way,” he said, “and for those monies to be used for immigration is a totally irresponsible thing.”
Monterrosa also noted that the Arizona law on which S.B. 590 is based is currently the subject of a lawsuit that appears headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The matter is still under appeal,” he said, adding, “It would be foolish for legislators to pass a law that sets the state up for federal litigation.” And Frazier further described the bill as a distraction for the state.
“S.B. 590 is an unconscionable distraction to issues of real concern,” she said, such as education, job creation, and a “humanely balanced budget.”
Speaking to The Tribune by phone Friday from Indianapolis, Delph defended the bill as necessary given the federal government’s failure to enforce current immigration law and enact meaningful immigration reform.
Responding to accusations that the bill encourages racial profiling, he first described racial profiling as “illegal” and “immoral” and then noted that S.B. 590 prohibits officers from using race or ethnicity to determine whether reasonable suspicion exists that a person is here illegally.
He also noted that the bill would crack down on employers who exploit undocumented workers as a source of cheap labor.” What we’ve allowed to take root in the state of Indiana is the equivalent of modern-day American slavery,” he said, “where people are trapped in an underground society and don’t have any rights ... and that’s very unfortunate and very contrary to our American ideals.”
Asked about that, Monterrosa responded that the federal government already enforces laws prohibiting employers from hiring undocumented workers, “and if that’s a concern, that workers are being exploited,” he said, “then I don’t know why there is a portion of the law (S.B. 590) that promotes racial profiling.”
Monterrosa did, however, agree with Delph on the need for “comprehensive immigration reform,” but S.B. 590 “isn’t the answer.”
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