INDIANAPOLIS — A battle over Arizona-style immigration enforcement is coming to the Indiana Statehouse this week.
Supporters of the crackdown say states need to do something about illegal immigration if the federal government isn't going to tackle the issue. Opponents say what's being offered in state legislatures would be expensive to enforce while not doing much to solve the problem.
His Senate Bill 590 is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Pensions and Labor. He said in a news release that he expects an overflow crowd.
"It's hard for me to get past the idea that some people think it's OK to turn a blind eye to the lawlessness, the exploitation of cheap labor for profit and the exploitation of human beings that's going on today in the state of Indiana," Delph said in an interview. "I consider it modern-day slavery. I'm gonna fight it. I think it's wrong."
Allert Brown-Gort, an immigration policy expert at the University of Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies, said immigrants account for only about 5 percent of Indiana's population. And, nationally, about three out of every four immigrants in the United States is here legally.
"One of the biggest problems with the Arizona debate," he said, "is it equates being Latino with being an immigrant. It equates being an immigrant with being illegal. It equates being here illegally with being a criminal. And it basically tells people they're not wanted here."
Delph's S.B. 590 would require police officers who stop anyone for breaking a law or ordinance to ask for proof that the person is here legally if there is "reasonable suspicion" to believe otherwise.
The bill would also require the Indiana Office of Management and Budget to estimate how much illegal immigration costs the state and send Congress a written request to be reimbursed for that amount.
There is also a provision barring state and local governments from using a language other than English for correspondence.
S.B. 590 also would strengthen penalties for businesses that employ illegal immigrants.
Companies would be prohibited from knowingly hiring them, and the state could take away a business license from any employer with three violations.
Employers that use the federal E-Verify system to confirm whether a person is legally employable would be immune from the penalties.
Brown-Gort acknowledged that U.S. immigration policy has serious issues, but he said enforcement is only one part of the solution.
"What needs to be done is we need to have a comprehensive program, one that recognizes we have certain economic demands. Let's put in place a guest-worker program, maybe increase the number of visas," he said.
"I'm not saying it's easy, because it's a complicated issue, but those are the types of things you have to do," he added. "You have to attack the issue from all sides."
And if S.B. 590 is going to require an accounting of how much illegal immigration costs the state, Brown-Gort said it should also calculate the economic benefits.
The costs of illegal immigration are often localized, he said, and the benefits are diffuse. For example, people notice immigrants in emergency rooms, but they don't consider that food prices are lower because of their labor.
Delph said he has no problem with estimating the benefits, but, he added, "That still doesn't erase the fact that they're breaking the law."