Sunday, February 24, 2008

Indiana Immigration Reform

What impact might the new Indiana Immigration Law (currently in the State Legislature) have on illegal immigration in Indiana? Read on...

From The Indianapolis Star:
Immigrations Laws Send Hispanics Elsewhere:

Thousands of illegal immigrants have fled the two states that have enacted tough new immigration laws similar to the one before the Indiana General Assembly.

Since passing their laws, Oklahoma and Arizona have seen declines in school enrollments, a scarcity of construction workers and the sudden emptying of rental homes and apartments. The same, some people say, would happen in Indiana, though advocates of stronger immigration laws say they would welcome the change.

The impact in Tulsa, Okla., was startling to Judy Feary, a principal at an elementary school where 59 percent of 1,000 students are Hispanic. On opening day last fall, 180 Hispanic students did not show up for class at Kendall-Whittier Elementary. ...

"There were lots of rumors going around that they would be arrested and their children taken away. So we did some community outreach, and we had to talk them into returning to school." Eventually, about 100 children were coaxed back, many of them U.S. citizens whose parents are not here legally. But across the Tulsa school district, the enrollment of Hispanic students is down by 257, an unexpected reversal of rising enrollments in recent years.

Whether that's good news or bad news depends on your view of illegal immigration. Supporters of the bill by state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, say jobs left open by fleeing immigrants will be filled by unemployed Americans, and fewer tax dollars will be spent on social services for illegal residents. Critics see a looming gap in the state's economy as workers take their local spending dollars elsewhere.

Delph maintains that his bill, which would crack down on employers that hire illegal immigrants, does not target a specific group of people, but the fact that some who are here illegally might scatter is "part of the intention of the bill."

"You can't have it both ways," Delph said. "If you illegally entered the country, there are consequences. Just because the federal government has chosen not to enforce the law or an individual has skated by for years does not mean that judgment day won't be coming."
Delph also has a message to businesses that stand to lose employees: "There are plenty of able-bodied Hoosiers that need jobs that will be willing to do those jobs at a fair market wage." ...

Statistics from both sides
Indiana, home to an estimated 85,000 illegal immigrants, is not alone in trying to address illegal immigration. Legislatures in 46 states adopted 244 immigration-related measures last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Preserving jobs for Americans is just one factor motivating lawmakers. According to some estimates, the typical Hoosier family pays an extra $200 a year in taxes to fund social services -- health care, education and food assistance -- because of illegal immigration.

Foes of Delph's bill are armed with some of their own numbers. In recent weeks, testimony offered at the Statehouse has suggested that the Hispanic buying power in Indiana is nearly $5 billion a year and that even those who are not legal residents help contribute an estimated $200 million in taxes to local and state governments.

M. Esther Barber, executive director of the Mexican Civic Association of Indiana, told legislators in a written report that Indiana's economy would suffer a 30 percent hit from lost wages, lost business and less taxes paid if Delph's bill passes. Evidence of similar trends can be seen in Oklahoma and Arizona.

In Tulsa, where an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Hispanics have left, restaurants are cutting back hours or closing, and local corporate leaders say many businesses are dealing with a 50 percent drop in business. "I know that many of them have bolted to Texas, California or Minnesota," said Feary. "This kind of reminds me of some of the prejudice we experienced back when we integrated the schools."

Oklahoma was home to about 250,000 Hispanic residents out of a population of 3.57 million in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Arizona has 1.8 million Hispanics out of a population of 6.1 million. By comparison, Indiana has nearly 300,000 Hispanics out of 6.3 million people.
Oklahoma Rep. Randy Terrill, the legislator who authored that state's law making it illegal to harbor an illegal immigrant, has been quoted in media reports as saying the mass departure of Hispanics is a sign of success.

"It seems to be working pretty well," he told The Associated Press. "What was Oklahoma's problem is now some other state's problem." The immigration crackdowns in Oklahoma and Arizona, according to the Houston Chronicle, have resulted in a large number of Hispanics -- up to 100 people a day -- moving to Texas, home to an estimated 1.6 million illegal immigrants in 2006.

Mike Means, executive director of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association, said home builders have noticed a 5 percent to 10 percent drop in the number of available workers in Oklahoma City. "We are worried," Means said. "In general, our masonry crews, roofers, bricklayers and concrete . . . it's almost 100 percent Hispanic workers. And a lot of guys are legal. It's been kind of like a dark cloud on things.

"To me, it's a profiling issue. You can't tell by looking at them if they are legal or not. And this doesn't fix the immigration problem. It just pushes it off to another state." That is perfectly fine with Dan Howard, a former Oklahoma state trooper who founded, a Web site that tracks illegal immigration news and views from around the nation, including Indiana.

"The only people that are whining about the shortage of labor now are those who profited off the backs" of illegal immigrants, Howard said. "And now they are no longer able to do so." As to opponents who say the law has resulted in racial profiling and has racist undertones, Howard vigorously responds: "We are not racists. We are not bigots. We have an invasion going on in this country. It may not be armed, but we have the largest invasion on U.S. soil in U.S. history going on right now."

Read more at the IndyStar online.

So what do I think about it? I have had to deal with one confirmed illegal immigrant who was hired by my predecessor. He falsified his Social Security card by creating a Social Security Number that didn't exist -- the sequence of his number was completely invalid. He feels that what he did was not wrong because he was not stealing someone else's identity. I am currently dealing with another likely illegal immigrant at work, hired by my predecessor's predecessor. This person claims to be from Texas and has a Social Security Number issued in Illinois. We have already confirmed that the name, birth date, and Social Security number he provided to us do not match. He, I suspect, has stolen someone else's identity. I'll know the outcome of his status some time in the next three weeks. And then I have one other suspected illegal immigrant working for me, also hired by my predecessor. Though I have no solid means for my suspicion -- his documentation appears to be in order, Indiana driver license, valid Social Security number -- all of the things that the INS requires an employer to check. But there's just something about the appearance of his Social Security card and the fact that the number was issued in Delaware that makes me suspicious. I have some sources checking on it unofficially for me.

I deal with hiring difficulties on a daily basis. It is hard to find good people willing to give me an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. It's hard to find applicants who actually want to work. But you know what? As a patriotic American, I would much rather run short-staffed and struggle with staffing my store than staff it with people who are in this country illegal, stealing benefits from my fellow countrymen.

And if Indiana's Immigration reform bill is passed, then the penalties for having an illegal alien in my employ are much too severe to make it worth the risk. As a patriotic American, without some serious Immigration reform in this country, I might just find it easier not to even hire someone who appears to be of Hispanic origin. That would at least eliminate some of the chance of hiring an illegal.

What are your thoughts?


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