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Case for state intervention weakens

March 17, 2011

Story Courtesy: indystar.com

The more adamantly state Sen. Mike Delph defends his immigration bill against mounting opposition, the weaker the case for this sprawling legislation appears.

He calls it a straightforward matter of respect for the law, and dismisses opposition by the state's top law enforcement officer as "political" and "knee-jerk."

He says undocumented immigrants are economically bleeding the state, but concedes that a study of their costs and benefits still needs to be done. At the same time, he says the money doesn't matter; it's the principle.

Nor is he fazed by the likelihood that federal authorities, who would have the final say on persons detained under his bill, would turn them loose as they do now. "We'll force the issue," he told The Star's Editorial Board Wednesday.

The Carmel Republican tosses terms such as "demagoguery" and "elite establishment" back at those who've challenged Senate Bill 590. A partial list includes state Sen. Luke Kenley and Attorney General Greg Zoeller, as well as religious leaders, major employers, and civil rights and Latino groups.

There also are signs of GOP hesitation in the House, which has SB 590 after the Senate approved it, 31-18. Opening the door to adjustments, Delph told The Star he has an "endgame" in mind, but withheld specifics.

Delph maintains that his bill will ease "cultural conflict." He deems it "offensive" to suggest that roadside checks of persons "reasonably suspected" of being here illegally could invite racial or ethnic profiling. Yet cultural conflict already has flared over this legislation; and the grounds for suspicion are both vague and ominous, including poor English.

Kenley's concern is that the use of state and local police to check papers will hurt Indiana's image and won't stop illegal entry. Zoeller says the state is unwise to take on a federal responsibility and is asking for court fights. They're both right, especially given the fact that the feds, with whom Delph is so dissatisfied, would remain the final enforcer.

We don't know what undocumented immigrants cost the state, compared to what they contribute. The math should precede the bill. If their departure is still imperative, regardless of practicality or hardship, it will take more than SB 590 to dislodge them. It will cost a great deal, in law enforcement dollars and in many other ways, to demonstrate that futility.

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