This past week, an Indiana Senate Committee approved a bill to crackdown on illegal immigration. The arguments are neither new nor surprising. According to its Senate sponsor, the bill is only attempting to "to put teeth into existing law.” According to Senator Delph, a Republican representing Carmel, Indiana, “[t]oday, we say no more to illegal immigration and we say we really mean it. We want the rule of law restored. Period.” And Bob Schrameyer, from a group called Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement, told the Senate committee that "Employers have found it far too easy to hire illegal workers, which not only drives down wages to improve their bottom line, but take unfair advantage of a minority group."
In case anybody wondered, this push is about the rule of law and protecting the immigrants themselves from ruthless employers. Of course.
The means of enforcement are also not new. Under the new law, police who have "reasonable suspicion" that a person is here illegally while stopping them for another violation -- say, a traffic violation -- must ask for proof that the person is here legally. The bill also requires that government meetings be conducted only in English and asks the federal government to reimburse the state for costs associated with illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants are also barred from receiving some state services, including in-state college tuition.
I am happy to set aside for the moment the many enforcement problems associated with the law, and its real racial profiling dangers. For now, I cannot help but wonder: is this the one issue that is holding back the state of Indiana? Are its schools in order, its economy back on track, its budgets balanced, its citizens happy and content as they look to the future? In other words, why legal immigration? Why now?
Sadly, this is not specific to Indiana. According to MSNBC and Telemundo, at least 15 states across the country are considering similar legislation.
This is not a new story, by any means. Nativism is not a new phenomenon. Pull out your history books and read about the United States in the 1850's, or the late 19th Century, moments when waves of immigration brought out the worst in many. These have not been proud moments in American history
It is impossible to read and see what is transpiring across so many states and not feel that history has a funny way of repeating itself.
I wonder what Luis Fortuño thinks about this.