(STATEHOUSE) Feb. 18, 2008 - The House Public Policy Committee today passed Senate Bill 335, dealing with illegal immigration, with a 7-4 vote. Rep. Matt Bell (R-Avilla) voted against the legislation.
"Illegal immigration is a problem in Indiana and a problem nationally, and it is a shame that the federal government has not taken action," said Rep. Bell. "This is a complex issue with shared responsibility by a number of groups. The solution in Senate Bill 335 is not comprehensive enough, but I do appreciate the author's work.
"Employers that have brought illegal immigrants into the state to work should be held accountable. But I feel it sets a dangerous precedent for states to have varying laws on the issue. I know my constituents and constituents around the country want something done, which is why I feel this is a federal matter."
SB 335 focuses on employers hiring illegal immigrants. However, an amendment was added to the bill today that permits rather than requires the state police to work with federal immigration officials to help transport illegal immigrants to detention centers. With the amendment, the bill now merely allows the superintendent of the Indiana State Police to enter into a memorandum of understanding concerning a pilot project for the enforcement of federal immigration and customs laws.
The original bill required the superintendent of the Indiana State Police to enter into a memorandum of understanding concerning a pilot project for the enforcement of federal immigration and custom laws. If the federal government denied the petition, this would have held the superintendent of the Indiana State Police accountable for something he had no control over.
The amendment also requires the Hispanic and Latino Affairs Committee to study the issue and create a more comprehensive package.
"All of the reports on this issue give national statistics, but we need to know how this will affect Indiana," said Rep. Bell. "Forcing employers to be accountable for hiring illegals will cost the state $1.5 million to enforce in a time of property tax crisis, and will hurt small businesses, possibly putting them under."
The bill will likely be re-assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee for further discussion.