Published June 24, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS – A federal judge blocked parts of Indiana's new immigration law Friday, saying the law was the latest failed effort of states to deal with a primarily federal issue.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker granted a request for an injunction blocking two provisions of the law, which was approved this year by Republicans who control the Statehouse.
Barker wrote in the ruling that Indiana's law -- as well as laws enacted in several other states -- is an attempt to deal with what is seen as a failure of the federal government to deal with illegal immigration. She said the two provisions of Indiana's effort to deal with immigration "have proven to be seriously flawed and generally unsuccessful."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the National Immigration Law Center sued the state in May, contending the law gives police sweeping arrest powers against immigrants who haven't committed crimes.
"We are gratified that the court recognized that Indiana has no place in making immigration policy and we are happy that the constitutional rights of Indiana residents have been vindicated," said Ken Falk, an attorney with the ACLU of Indiana.
State Sen. Mike Delph, a Republican from Carmel who authored the immigration law, said he wasn't surprised by the ruling because temporary injunctions have been issued in similar cases. He predicted that backers of the law will ultimately prevail in court.
"I continue to fight for taxpayers and all immigrants who became citizens by following the law," Delph said. "This is just the beginning of the legal process and I look forward to working with (Attorney General Greg) Zoeller in defense of Indiana sovereignty and Hoosier taxpayers."
The state attorney general's office had argued in court that fears about the immigration law were exaggerated and based on a misunderstanding of the law.
"Today's ruling can be seen as an indictment of the federal government on their failure to enact and enforce immigration policy," Zoeller said in a statement Friday. "It underscores the challenge to Indiana and other state lawmakers who have tried to respond to Washington's failure."
The ACLU has said the law's wording would allow the arrest of anyone who has had a notice of action filed by immigration authorities, a formal paperwork step that affects virtually anyone applying to be in the U.S. for any reason. Barker had previously noted that it can take up to two weeks to get answers from federal immigration officials on specific cases -- time a person arrested under the law could spend in jail waiting for immigration officials to bring law enforcement up to date on their case.
The other portion of the law that was blocked was a measure making it illegal for immigrants to use ID cards issued by foreign consulates as proof of identification. The ACLU estimates the Mexican consulate in Indianapolis has issued about 70,000 such ID cards, and said the state law would interfere with foreign treaties allowing the cards.
The National Immigration Law Center said the ruling prevented discriminatory elements of the law from taking effect.
"We look forward to the day that it is permanently removed from Indiana's law books," said Shiu-Ming Cheer, an attorney with the center.