Lawsuit: Indiana’s Immigration Law’s No SB 1070, Still Unconstitutional

The new law mandates that state agencies use the controversial E-Verify program and gives cops unprecedented power to arrest people who they think may be undocumented.

By Julianne Hing May 26, 2011

On Wednesday the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center, representing three Indiana residents, filed suit against the state of Indiana charging that its recently passed immigration law — initially designed to mimic SB 1070 — is unconstitutional.

The final version of Indiana’s recently passed immigration law, SB 590, is far more tame than the ambitious and harsh SB 1070 copycat it began as when it was introduced by State Sen. Mike Delph. The final version that Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law on May 10 includes restrictive anti-immigrant provisions that were commonplace before SB 1070. SB 590 outlaws sanctuary cities, and mandates that state employers use the problem-ridden federal work authorization database E-Verify. The law includes new penalties for employers that turn out to be hiring undocumented workers. It also bars undocumented immigrants from accessing college tuition aid and other public benefits.

The lawsuit, however, concerns two provisions in SB 590 that give law enforcement officers unprecedented power to make an arrest if they encounter a person who has a deportation order or Department of Homeland Security detainer, or who police have probable cause to believe has been indicted for an aggravated felony. The new law also outlaws the use of ID cards that are issued by foreign consulates. Under SB 590, they’re no longer legitimate forms of identification.

"Indiana has created a law that not only tramples on the constitutional rights of Hoosiers, but also improperly involves Indiana in areas that are clearly of federal, not state, concerns," said Kenneth Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana.

The complaint filed on behalf of two Mexican immigrants and one Nigerian immigrant charges that while today they have a legal right to work and live in the U.S., the new law makes them subject to arrest. One of the plaintiffs, a citizen of Mexico, had applied for a special visa given out to victims of or witnesses to violent crimes, yet would be unfairly vulnerable to being arrested under the new law because she’d received a "notice of action" from the government verifying receipt of her paperwork.

"Indiana has unwisely chosen to follow down Arizona’s unconstitutional path," said Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. "This law marginalizes entire communities by criminalizing commonly accepted forms of identification. The law also undermines our most cherished constitutional safeguards by putting Indiana residents at risk of unlawful warrantless arrests without any suspicion of wrongdoing, much less criminal activity."

The ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center are seeking an injunction against the law to block it before it goes into effect on July 1.