Despite pressure from big business, Hispanic leaders and passionate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the Indiana House passed a bill Thursday night to crack down on illegal immigration.
The 66-33 vote came after two hours of heated debate on the House floor. The Senate approved a similar bill by a 37-11 vote in January.
The legislation—which can revoke an employer’s business license for repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants—is likely headed to a House-Senate conference committee, where differences between the bills would be worked out.
Earlier Thursday, Gov. Mitch Daniels declined to commit his support until he saw the final bill.
Supporters said the bill was necessary because illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from legal residents and costing state taxpayers money for education, law enforcement and incarceration.
Opponents say this bill will not solve a national problem and will lead to racial profiling and discrimination against anyone who looks Hispanic.
In addition to the crackdown on employers, the legislation requires the Indiana State Police to enter into an agreement with federal officials to seek training and begin enforcing federal immigration laws. The attorney general would also be asked to investigate written complaints made against employers.
Some critics say the bill does not go far enough.
Rep. P. Eric Turner, R-Marion, who wanted to also deny illegal immigrants certain social benefits and tuition support, called the legislation “illegal immigration light.”
Others said any kind of crackdown will be harmful to Indiana when thousands of Hispanic workers leave the state out of fear, as has been the case in Oklahoma and Arizona.
“How will we adjust to worker shortages in Indiana?” asked Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster. “The negative consequences of this bill will be costly to our economy.”