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Mennonites, Presbyterians Oppose Indiana Immigration Bill (SB 590)

March 9, 2011

Story Courtesy: AOLnews.com

A tough new bill targeting illegal immigrants in Indiana has several faith traditions speaking up in protest.

The Elkhart Truth reports that the Mennonite Church USA, which is headquartered in Indiana and represents 939 congregations nationwide, has registered its official opposition to Senate Bill 590.

Meanwhile, according to The Indianapolis Star, leaders of the Presbyterian Church have said they will not hold their biannual conference in Indianapolis this summer if SB 590 passes. That has the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association worried about the bill's potential impact on tourism revenues.

Opponents of SB 590 have coalesced around a so-called Indiana Compact, which pledges a commitment to "responsible immigration reform." Signatories of the compact include Mennonites, representatives of local Catholic dioceses, the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Jewish Community Relations Council, along with business representatives and other laypeople.

Why has SB 590 prompted such an outcry?

The bill -- which, inevitably, is described as an "Arizona-style" approach to immigration -- would allow law enforcement officials to check an individual's citizenship or immigration status in certain situations, the (La Porte) Herald Argus reports. It would also make the harboring or transporting of an illegal immigrant a crime in some situations and would require that only English be used in official public meetings, documents and communications from officers and employees of the state or political subdivisions.

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If this sounds familiar, it's because a similar bill, HB 56, is pending in Alabama.

While debate over SB 590 continues, its political progress has stalled. The measure moved to the Indiana House after passing the Senate 31-18 in February, but House business has halted after Democrats walked out to block a vote on an anti-collective bargaining bill.

Today the Evansville Courier & Press reports from Illinois, where Indiana Democrats are camping in hotel rooms, and says talks between House Republicans and Democrats have begun. But there's no word yet on when Indiana House votes will resume.

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