Federal judge strikes down Indiana’s immigration law

INDIANAPOLIS – A federal judge has blocked enforcement of two key parts of Indiana’s controversial state immigration bill passed in 2011.

The ACLU of Indiana filed a challenge that prompted U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker to issue a preliminary injunction against those provisions. In a ruling released Thursday, Barker made that injunction permanent.

The ruling pointed to two provisions: one that barred the use of consular ID cards and another allowing the arrests of people with questionable immigration status. Barker said the state law violates the Constitution’s due process and search and seizure protections. In effect, she said federal law trumps state law when it comes to immigration.

Other parts of the law, including a provision that mandates penalties for companies that hire illegal workers, are still in effect.

The 2011 law, Senate Enrolled Act 590, was passed in the legislature in 2011. The original version of the bill gave police the authority to question someone’s immigration status during a traffic stop. The version lawmakers passed was changed significantly from the original.

Attorney General Greg  Zoeller represented Marion and Johnson county prosecutors who appealed the initial ruling, though Zoeller did not appeal on the state’s behalf. Barker said Zoeller fulfilled his duty to defend the statute and that state legislators could not intervene in the case.

Zoeller released a statement regarding the court’s decision:

“I take my responsibility to defend the statutes the Legislature passes from legal challenge as an important role of the office I hold. The court recognized that the Office of the Attorney General has faithfully defended all provisions of this statute until the U.S. Supreme Court last June said that state-level warrantless arrest laws are preempted as unconstitutional.

“Now that the federal court decision reinforces what we said all along — that immigration enforcement is a federal government not a state responsibility — this case is at an end and the state will not appeal.  We are pleased that Judge Barker’s ruling has underscored and reiterated the responsibility of my office to defend state statutes as is our solemn obligation.”

Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, applauded the ruling.

“This ruling demonstrates that the Constitution applies to all Indiana residents and that the state cannot presume to regulate immigration,” Falk said.

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