Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Indiana Immigration Bill Advances

Immigration bill advances | Indianapolis Star
Democrats make changes; Hispanic critics still hope measure dies
By Bill Ruthhart
February 19, 2008

Businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers would be tried in an administrative rather than a criminal court under one of several changes lawmakers approved to an immigration bill Monday.

The change was among many backed by Democrats, who said they strengthened the bill. But some Republicans argued the legislation had become watered down, with Democrats making mandatory provisions optional. ...

The bill would punish businesses for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. It would require employers to use a federal system to verify citizenship, and, as originally drafted, it would revoke the state license of a business found in violation of the law three times within a 10-year period.

In one of the changes made Monday, House Democrats reduced that time frame to five years. Another change was the inclusion of $1.5 million -- $1 million for the State Police and $500,000 for the attorney general -- to fund enforcement of the legislation. ...

Another major change made by the House committee placed the responsibility of prosecuting employers with the Department of Labor.

Overall, Democrats argued that they made the bill much stronger. But House Republicans on the committee pointed to a pair of changes they said weakened the bill.

As originally written, SB 335 would have required the Indiana State Police to enter an agreement with the federal government that would allow them to enforce federal immigration law. The committee approved a recommendation from Tincher so that entering such an agreement would be optional.

Republicans also didn't like a change allowing the governor to overrule an administrative judge's decision in the best interests of the state's economy. ...

Van Haaften argued that the enforcement provision needed to be optional for the State Police because it's optional for the federal government. ...

SB 335 is expected to move to the House Ways and Means Committee next because the $1.5 million appropriation was added to the legislation. If approved there, it would move to the full House for a vote, which Tincher said he expects to happen.

If approved by the House, the bill would move to a conference committee where members of the House and Senate would work to resolve their differences on the legislation.

Gonzalez, one of the bill's sharpest critics, said she's still hopeful the bill won't make it that far.
"Overall, the amendments don't seem to lessen the fear, the concern that is being felt in our community," she said. "I was very disappointed that it didn't just die in the committee."

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