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[ATG] AG’s Office wins victory defending immigration law from challenge
Start Date: 8/14/2013Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 8/14/2013End Time: 11:59 PM
Entry Description

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office has successfully defended portions of Indiana’s state-level immigration law from a legal challenge. A federal court Tuesday dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit, finding it was legally defective, meaning the portions of the law the plaintiff had challenged remain in effect and are not struck down. 

“My office fulfilled its duty to aggressively defend the state statute the Legislature passed from two separate legal challenges while following the United States Supreme Court’s guidance. The federal court has vindicated our defense and thrown out the plaintiff’s challenge to the state statute,” Zoeller said. 

Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Judge Jon DeGuilio ruled in the lawsuit, Union Benefica Mexicana v. State of Indiana.  The federal court granted three defense motions to dismiss the lawsuit, meaning this lawsuit is concluded and the State prevailed. 

In 2011, the Indiana Legislature passed a comprehensive immigration law, Senate Enrolled Act 590. A nonprofit group based in East Chicago, Union Benefica Mexicana or UBM, filed suit in December 2011 alleging two portions of the law were unconstitutional:  

• The provision that allows the State to sue employers to recoup unemployment benefits from employers who knowingly employ unauthorized or illegal workers. 

• The provision that requires workers seeking day-laborer jobs to complete individual attestation-of-employment forms, and requires police to submit a complaint to federal immigration authorities if they have probable cause to believe that a worker has not completed the form. 

UBM sought an injunction seeking to block enforcement of the law and a declaratory judgment.  Named as defendants in UBM’s lawsuit in their official capacities were the Governor, Attorney General and the county prosecutors and sheriffs of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.  As the lawyer for state government, Zoeller’s office represented the state government officials and prosecutors and defended the state statute; the sheriffs had their own counsel.    

Zoeller previously noted that two sections UBM challenged already comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2011 Arizona v. U.S. case that clarified the limits of state authority in federal immigration enforcement. Contending UBM’s lawsuit against the state officials and prosecutors was legally defective, Zoeller’s office asked the federal judge to dismiss the case.  

In a 25-page opinion Tuesday, Judge DeGuilio dismissed the lawsuit, finding the state’s sovereign immunity from lawsuits under the Eleventh Amendment barred UBM’s case, and finding the state officials, prosecutors and sheriffs have no role in enforcing the portions of the law UBM sought an injunction against. 

Separately, Zoeller’s office also defended Senate Enrolled Act 590 from a different legal challenge filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.  In that case, Buquer v. Indianapolis, plaintiffs challenged other parts of the law, including the warrantless arrest provisions.   Once the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Arizona case and invalidated warrantless arrest laws, the Attorney General’s Office notified the court in the Buquer case that the warrantless arrest sections no longer could be defended.  On March 28 the Southern District federal court granted a permanent injunction blocking enforcement of those sections.  Not affected were the two portions where Zoeller’s office ultimately prevailed in the UBM suit. Also not affected were portions of SEA 590 – such as the requirement that state contractors check workers’ immigration status through the E-Verify federal database – that were not challenged in either lawsuit. They remain on the law books.  

“The federal government’s failure for many years to enforce federal immigration laws led state legislatures in Indiana and other states to pursue state-level immigration laws, and we hope this lengthy litigation will serve to remind Congress that immigration is primarily a federal responsibility in need of congressional attention,” Zoeller said.  

NOTE:  The U.S. District Court ruling dismissing the lawsuit Union Benefica Mexicana v. State of Indiana is attached.  

-30-

Contact Information:
Name: Bryan Corbin
Phone: 317.233.3970
Email: Bryan.Corbin@atg.in.gov
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    > Federal Court ruling dismissing legal challenge to immigration statute
Entry Type:
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Entry Category:
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  • IN.gov Category:
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  • Public Safety
  • Agency Name
    Attorney General

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