Criminal Justice

Zoeller Claims Win v. Northwest Indiana’s UBM

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August 14, 2013 — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a northwestern Indiana Hispanic advocacy group challenging a portion of Indiana’s immigration law because of technical flaws.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office is claiming victory as having, “successfully defended portions of Indiana’s state-level immigration law from a legal challenge” that included him as a defendant.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office responded today to a federal court dismissal yesterday of a lawsuit.

Zoeller says that federal Judge Jon DeGuilio in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted three of his staff’s defense motions to dismiss the lawsuit, Union Benefica Mexicana v. State of Indiana.

Though the State says this lawsuit is concluded and that it prevailed, Judge DeGuilio ruled that Union Benefica Mexicana can refile the lawsuit with corrections but the original suit can’t go forward with its filed lawsuit because it improperly names the State of Indiana, the Governor, the Attorney General and three northwestern Indiana county prosecutors as defendants.

Zoeller said, “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 calls the plaintiff’s lawsuit, “legally defective, meaning the portions of the law the plaintiff had challenged remain in effect and are not struck down.”

Union Benefica Mexicana sued after the General Assembly passed a law that opponents argued gave police sweeping arrest powers against immigrants who haven’t committed crimes. That part of the law was left unenforceable by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against an Arizona law, but language affecting businesses remained intact.

The 2011 comprehensive immigration law, Senate Enrolled Act 590, caused the nonprofit group based in East Chicago, Union Benefica Mexicana or UBM, to file its lawsuit 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.

Zoeller notes that UBM sought an injunction to block enforcement of the law and seek a declaratory judgment. UBM’s lawsuit defendants included, in their official capacities, Governor Mike Pence, Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the county prosecutors and sheriffs of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

Zoeller 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 Judge DeGuilio to dismiss the case.

The Attorney General’s office reported today that:
“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.”

Union Benefica Mexicana v. State et al., Order Granting State’s Motion to Dismiss
Click link to The U.S. District Court ruling dismissing the lawsuit Union Benefica Mexicana v. State of Indiana.

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