INDIANAPOLIS — When a federal judge struck down key provisions of the state’s immigration law last week, it seemed anticlimactic.
In June 2011, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker had granted a temporary injunction that barred the law from taking effect that July while she weighed its constitutionality.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise when she issued her ruling that said portions of the law, including the provision that permitted warrantless arrests of non-citizens, were unconstitutional.
With Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s decision not to appeal the ruling, the court case is over. But the argument over the state’s role in immigration enforcement is not.
Republican state Sen. Mike Delph made that clear to me last week, before Barker’s ruling on legislation that he helped write.
The conservative legislator from Carmel was concerned about a story I wrote on an immigration bill currently in the General Assembly: Senate Bill 207. It’s legislation that would partially roll back Indiana’s two-year-old ban on in-state college tuition for the children of undocumented workers.
I wrote about the bill because I thought it reflected a dramatic shift going on nationally among Republicans courting the Hispanic vote: It was Republicans who pushed the in-state tuition ban two years ago, arguing that Indiana should no longer be a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants. And now it’s key Republicans who are pushing to roll back the ban, arguing it’s unnecessarily punitive to the children of those immigrants.
But Delph said the bill signals something else: A polarizing fight within the Republican Party over just how far to go to court the Hispanic vote.
Delph calls Senate Bill 207 a “purely political” piece of legislation.
“There is a concern that if we don’t start doing this we’re going to lose votes,” Delph said. “My position has always been: You stand on principle, make your case, then you go sell the people on the case that you’ve made.”