The Hispanic population in Elkhart County has grown substantially in the past 20 years.
In the last decade alone, Hispanics made up more than 78 percent of the county's population growth, accounting for 11,586 new residents versus 134 new Caucasians.
With that growth has come a corresponding increase in the number of Hispanic businesses and programs that cater to non-native English speakers. The growth also has led to an increasing ire among those who fear a changing culture in the county, as well as outrage over what they perceive as illegal immigrants taking jobs away from Americans.
No one knows for sure how many undocumented immigrants there are in Elkhart County. The Census doesn't track those numbers. But it is reasonable to assert that most Hispanics are here legally -- working, paying taxes, buying insurance and contributing to the economy.
We know there are some immigrants here illegally, based on the fact that a few are caught by the government or police. Estimates are as many as 12 million undocumented immigrants could reside in the United States.
There is a movement in the Legislature with support from a vocal minority of residents to require the use of English only in state government, public school and library documents, e-mails and telephone messaging systems.
Senate Bill 590 also would grant local police the authority to question detainees about their immigration status if they have a "reasonable suspicion" to believe they are illegal.
As with Arizona's controversial immigration law, the legislation, already passed by the Indiana Senate, could lead to racial profiling.
Local police shouldn't be doing the work of the federal government in enforcing immigration law. Besides, cities and counties are already cash-strapped and should be focusing on drug-related and violent crimes to keep the community safe.
At a time when schools are attempting to increase parent and student accountability and involvement, eliminating communications in Spanish seriously hampers their efforts.
Would we like immigrants to learn our language if they are going to live and work here for an extended period? Sure, but we shouldn't make it a government mandate.
State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, author of S.B. 590, believes Indiana has become "a sanctuary state."
The first settlers traveled to the East Coast in 1620 on that very principal -- fleeing to the New World as a sanctuary from religious persecution. They set up a new life for themselves, one they hoped would be free from tyranny.
Throughout our history, the United States has been a melting pot of nationalities and races coming together to create a unique culture.
Instead of trying to gain the votes of a vocal minority fueled by unsubstantiated "facts" and motivated by xenophobia, lawmakers should take a step back and think about the long-term social and financial effects of this legislation.
If the House accomplishes nothing else during this session, members should stop S.B. 590 from moving forward.