Poll shows support for immigration bill
By Lisa Shidler Post-Tribune correspondent February 12, 2011 4:20PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Debate is heating up in Northwest Indiana now that a bill meant to crack down on illegal immigration got the go-ahead from a state Senate committee.
Last week, the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee passed a measure with an 8-1 vote with Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, casting the sole opposing vote. The bill must also get the nod from the Senate Appropriations Committee and receive approval from both chambers.
“There are parts of the bill that just trample the constitution and would invite a whole slew of lawsuits about the definition of what is probable cause,” Tallian said.
However, a new study showed 76.7 percent of residents polled in Lake and Porter County favor the section of Senate Bill 590 which would require law enforcement officers to verify citizenship of possible immigrants in certain situations.
Those favoring it say Indiana needs to crack down on immigration and illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from citizens. Those who oppose it argue it will bring the Arizona-like law here and cause profiling based on a person’s skin tone.
To get a sense of how Northwest Indiana’s residents feel about the bill, Valparaiso-based JEM Research Inc. completed two studies on this topic, Kathleen DeWitt, vice president of business development of the firm, said.
The firm polled residents in Lake and Porter County for two different robo-calls asking questions about the bill.
According to the first study of 348 residents, 83.9 percent of residents agreed with the portion of the bill that would require a process established to suspend or revoke business licenses of employers who knowingly employ unauthorized aliens.
In a second study surveying 378 residents last week, 73 percent of residents said they believe there are Northwest Indiana businesses that knowingly employ illegal aliens.
Analysis from this pair of studies also showed that 67 percent of residents agree with the bill’s provision which would allow a law enforcement officer to arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe the person is an alien who meets certain criteria.
When asked how likely it is that the respondents would be required to verify their U.S. citizenship or immigration status, 72.1 percent said they believe they were unlikely to be asked to verify their citizenship.
Twenty-eight percent of the respondents said they felt they might be asked to verify their citizenship.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, says he hasn’t made up his mind yet on the bill and still has a number of questions about the legislation.
He’s worried enforcing the legislation would be costly at a time when the state is already strapped for cash.
“If we’re going to step in and incarcerate and feed people who haven’t robbed anyone — that’s going to cost a lot of money and we have to be careful with our budget,” he said.
He is hoping to glean more insight before he makes his decision.
Still, there are some good points to the measure, says Jim Biggs, a Porter County councilman and a former police officer who now works for a national security firm.
“It’s like any law,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity for it to be a valuable tool but there’s also the opportunity for it to be misused. It’s all on how it’s managed.”