Undocumented immigrants in Indiana:
No negative impact.
That was the overwhelming conclusion Wednesday, June 15 during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Immigration Reform at the State House in Indianapolis. This news video from WISH-TV focuses on the minimal impact of Indiana’s estimated 93,000 undocumented immigrants on the criminal justice system and the public safety benefits of allowing them to get driver’s licenses, including the ability to buy auto insurance.
After hearings in April and May, at which witnesses said undocumented immigrants were hurting Indiana, senators heard strong conflicting testimony from representatives of law enforcement, builders, business owners, educators, farmers and hotel and restaurant owners.
My friend and Goshen College colleague Gilberto Pérez Jr. and I heard these highlights:
• 40% of immigrants came legally to the U.S. and then just stayed after their visas expired at which point they are considered “unauthorized aliens.”
• Immigration from Mexico has declined in recent years, as have the public service costs of undocumented immigrants.
• U.S. citizens, and not undocumented people, are the majority of those supplying and dealing illegal drugs in the state.
• Undocumented persons make up just 2 percent of the state’s prison population and the vast majority are being held for non-violent crimes.
• 84 percent of undocumented immigrants are deported after completing their sentences; they aren’t just released as some claim.
• People seeking to legally immigrate to the U.S. to work can face waits of 12 years or longer.
• Undocumented workers pay about $90 million in taxes in Indiana and nationally about $11.6 billion.
• Mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, as proposed by Donald Trump, would be impossible because that would involve the forced removed of 11.3 million people and would cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
• Witnesses blasted the proposal by committee chairman, Sen. Mike Delph, to require Indiana employers to use E-Verify, the federal government’s online program used to check the eligibility of employees to work in the United States. They said the system is ineffective and inaccurate.
• Finally, witnesses testified that immigrants help the economy by buying goods and services and taking jobs that cannot be filled by legal residents. A common thread among all witnesses is that the U.S. immigration system is broken, but that the federal government – and not the state of Indiana – should fix it.
The committee’s next hearing will be Aug. 17. Gilberto and I hope to be there to testify about the importance of educating all students, regardless of their immigration status.
Gilberto and Richard Aguirre in the Indiana Senate hearing room.
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