Just as immigration has emerged as an issue of likely debate at the federal level, Indiana lawmakers, too, will be tasked with tackling the complicated topic.
At least three immigration proposals have popped on to the legislative docket for 2013, according to the Indiana General Assembly website. They include a measure co-authored by State Rep. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, that would partially rescind a 2011 law that makes it more expensive for undocumented immigrants to attend public colleges in the state, Senate Bill 207.
Senate Bill 581 would arguably go further. As it reads, the measure, authored by State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, would repeal or remove many of the prongs of Senate Enrolled Act 590, the controversial anti-illegal immigrant law approved in 2011.
Among many other things, S.B. 581 would cancel out a provision disallowing certain state tax credits for employers that hire undocumented immigrants without using the federal work authorization program, E-Verify. It would also negate another section requiring use of E-Verify, the federal system designed to make sure workers have proper authorization, by state and local government agencies and public contractors.
Senate Bill 550 would allow for issuance of “driving authority permits” to undocumented immigrants living in Indiana. As is, undocumented immigrants can’t legally drive in the state — a source of anxiety for many who drive anyway — but the measure, as it reads, would grant them a means to legally do so. S.B. 550 is authored by State Sen. Frank Mrvan Jr., D-Hammond.
It remains to be seen what sort ot traction each of the measures gets.
S.B. 207 was referred on Jan. 7 to the Committee on Education and Career Development, S.B. 581 was sent to the Committee on Pensions and Labor last Tuesday while S.B. 550 was sent last Monday to the Committee on Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs.
Yoder wasn’t immediately available Friday to discuss S.B. 207.
Cynthia Murphy, though, said she was “thrilled” at the proposal. She’s retention and recruitment counselor for Latinos at Indiana University South Bend and works with undocumented students.
Under House Enrolled Act 1402, which went into effect July 1, 2011, undocumented immigrants living here must pay the higher non-resident tuition rates at Indiana’s public colleges and universities, not the lower in-state rates. That has prompted some students to quit school altogether, unable to pay the higher rates, or transfer to lower-cost schools.
S.B. 207 would partially reverse that, allowing impacted students who were enrolled as of July 1, 2011, in a public Indiana educational institution to pay the in-state rate. Those enrolling after that would still have to pay the higher non-resident rate.
“Obviously I would like to see (HEA 1402) just repealed,” said Murphy. “But we will take first steps where they will come.”
Indiana ranks low in the United States in terms of concentration of residents lacking post-secondary education, Murphy said. Thus, as she sees it, there’s no sense in making it any tougher for Indiana residents to attend college, via measures like HEA 1402.