U.S. District Court Strikes Down Indiana's Immigration Law

"Because [the law] authorizes state and local law enforcement officers to effect warrantless arrests for matters that are not crimes, it runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment, and thus, is unconstitutional on those grounds."
-Judge Sarah Evans Barker

March 29, 2013

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Indianapolis - In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana affecting potentially all of Indiana's non-citizens, a federal judge today issued an order blocking portions of Indiana's immigration law and declaring it unconstitutional. A second order issued by the Judge denies a motion by three state senators to intervene in the case.

Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, said "This ruling demonstrates that the Constitution applies to all Indiana residents and that the state cannot presume to regulate immigration."

Judge Sarah Evans Barker, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis, said in her ruling that the law "runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment" because it authorizes state and local law enforcement officers to "effect warrantless arrests for matters that are not crimes." Judge Barker had previously issued a preliminary injunction against the law and it never went into effect.

The law, Senate Enrolled Act 590, passed by the Indiana General Assembly and signed by Governor Mitch Daniels in 2011, permitted local law enforcement officers to make warrantless arrests of people in possession of certain immigration-related documents, even though the possession of those documents is not a crime. The law also made the use of identification cards issued by consulates of foreign countries illegal.

In July 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Arizona as unconstitutional in a decision that reinforced the proposition that immigration is the sole province of the federal government, and that states lack an enforcement role. Nevertheless, in September following that ruling and the Indiana Attorney General's decision to halt its defense of the law, Indiana Senators Mike Delph (R - Indianapolis); Phil Boots (R - Crawfordsville) and Brent Steele (R - Bedford) filed a motion to intervene.

"The Constitution is a restraint on the power of government over the lives of individuals," said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director. "The ACLU of Indiana is proud to stands with all people in our state when they assert those protections of their liberties."

The decision, Buquer v. City of Indianapolis, City of Franklin, Johnson County is entered in the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Case No. 1:11-cv-0708 SEB-MJD. The ACLU of Indiana was assisted on this case by Angela Adams of the firm Lewis & Kappes, P.C. and attorneys from the Immigrants' Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the National Immigration Law Center.

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