ACLU of Indiana Urges Rejection of Anti-Immigrant Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
January 27, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU of Indiana
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INDIANAPOLIS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today urged state legislators and Governor Mitch Daniels to reject House Bill 1383, which would cut off many immigrants from public services, including health care, and would require law enforcement agencies to verify the status of suspected “illegal” aliens.

The bill passed the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee by a 7-3 vote on January 24. The ACLU of Indiana has joined a coalition of immigrant rights and health care advocates who oppose the bill.

“If House Bill 1383 were to become law, it would create an atmosphere of exclusion and hate for immigrant communities who contribute to the enrichment of our culture and lives, and are essential workers in an economy that demands their labor,” said Fran Quigley, Executive Director of the ACLU of Indiana. “Hoosier lawmakers, from legislators to Governor Daniels, need to make it clear that this ill-informed and mean-spirited proposal has no place in Indiana law.”

The ACLU outlined five reasons why the bill should be rejected:

First, contrary to assumptions, undocumented immigrants are already excluded from all but a few government programs that related to public health and safety.

HB 1383 is responding to a public perception — that undocumented immigrants drain government budgets by reaping public benefits — which is simply not accurate.

The few public benefits that undocumented immigrants may receive include emergency Medicaid, nutritional assistance to women, infants and children under the WIC program and school lunches and breakfasts. Undocumented children are entitled to attend public schools under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision. Eligibility for these few programs and services is designed to provide emergency medical care, to reduce the risk that innocent children will be punished or hurt as a result of their parents’ immigration status, and to serve the fiscal and long-term interests of all Americans.

Even legal permanent resident immigrants are functionally ineligible for most government programs. They are prohibited from receiving most cash assistance during their first three years in the country and are subject to deportation if they become a public charge within five years of entry.

Second, HB 1383 will undermine public health in Indiana.

Under this bill, immigrants would be denied essential preventive services, like vaccinations, that are designed to keep us ALL safe. During potentially dangerous outbreaks, it is in the interest of the general public to make sure that prevention and treatment are available to everyone. By excluding undocumented immigrants from this type of care, HB 1383 seriously endangers the public health.

Third, HB 1383 will undermine public safety in Indiana.

This bill would require already overburdened law enforcement personnel to check the immigration documents of people they come in contact with. Many local police departments and police chiefs object to these kinds of policies because they discourage immigrant communities from having contact with police, fire departments, and other civic authorities. When immigrants fear reporting crimes, acting as witnesses, or reporting domestic violence, the safety of the larger community is jeopardized.

Fourth, asking public agencies and law enforcement to detect and report the immigration status of individuals is not workable, is an inefficient use of resources, and not in the public interest.

This bill would force public health employees, like doctors, nurses, and emergency personnel, and law enforcement personnel to become immigration enforcers, requiring them to spend valuable time and resources checking documents rather than providing services. Most Americans don’t carry documents showing that they belong to their own country, and are likely to face delays when seeking medical care. Similarly, legal immigrants have a variety of statuses under dozens of different visa categories. Also, for example, some immigrants enter the country unlawfully and apply for refugee status; they receive temporary status from USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) while their status is being reviewed. It is unwise and unfair to expect essential medical and law enforcement personnel to implement this complex area of law.

Fifth, HB 1383 will result in increased discrimination and litigation.

It is inevitable that HB 1383 will encourage law enforcement to treat persons who “look” Hispanic or otherwise “immigrant” differently from others. Undoubtedly, mistakes will be made and the end result would be a perpetuation of the problem of racial profiling, and an increased amount of costly litigation filed against government officials on behalf of the victims.

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