Rep. Eric Turner, R-Gas City, said Republicans hoped the plan would have a “chilling effect” on the flow of undocumented immigration in Indiana.
House Democrats said they were against undocumented immigration, but said the bill lacked teeth because it did not include enhanced penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
Some of the proposals are designed to ensure that state agencies comply with federal laws by denying undocumented immigrants public benefits such as assisted housing, post-secondary education, unemployment assistance, and health care paid through Medicaid. Republicans said a state law would reinforce such federal restrictions.
Another provision would require the Indiana State Police to seek a pilot program with the federal government that would broaden the authority of troopers to investigate immigration violations and detain undocumented immigrants.
Among other provisions:
_ Requiring Indiana authorities to notify federal officials if incarcerated people are in the country without documentation—something already in federal law.
_ Increase criminal penalties for those who provide or possess fraudulent identification not issued by the state or federal governments involving undocumented immigrants.
_ Passing a resolution urging the federal government to take stronger action to deter undocumented immigration and give states more authority in that arena.
According the Pew Research Center, there are between 55,000 to 85,000 illegal immigrants in Indiana.
Some of the provisions are similar to those in a bill that was defeated 74-19 last year. The GOP controls the Indiana House 52-48, and 32 Republicans—including Smith—voted against it following an emotional speech by Rep. Mike Murphy, chairman of the Marion County GOP.
He said then that the bill went too far by barring undocumented immigrants from receiving child protective services in abuse cases, and denying even those suspected of being here unlawfully due process rights. He also said people might take such a law beyond its intent, and there could be a day when people walking the streets would have to wear a marker showing they were legal.
“Maybe instead of a yellow star, they can wear sombreros on their chest. Why knows?” Murphy said then.
The current plan would allow undocumented immigrants to receive child protective services, and Murphy said Turner had agreed to address due process. Murphy also said work was still being done on refining definitions of benefits and it was only a broad plan now, not a bill, but that Turner had moderated the proposal significantly from last year’s legislation.
Smith said he believed many Republicans voted against last year's bill because it was amended with a Democratic provision that would impose tougher penalties on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Federal penalties are strong enough, he said.
But House Democrat leaders blasted the absence of tougher penalties on employers who hire undocumented immigrants in the first place and then pay them low wages.
“If you don't cut off the profit motive in this, you cannot cut off undocumented immigration,” said House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend.
Bauer noted that the House GOP plan includes a resolution urging the federal government to take action on the issue, when the Bush administration has been in charge of border security for the past six years and Republicans have controlled Congress the last 12 years.
“They are trying to demagogue an issue that their president and their Congress have allowed to fester and happen,” he said.
Program agenda for: Forced repatriation of Mexican workers by the United States, Main Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Avenue, Explorers Room