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AG Rokita threatens legal action against locals with ‘sanctuary city’ laws on the books



Indiana – On Friday, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita threatened four local government entities with legal action if they did not remove their so-called “sanctuary city” policies by July.

The previous legislative session granted his administration the authority to impose a state prohibition on municipal ordinances that limit collaboration between immigration-related local governments and federal agencies.

“The flood of illegal immigrants entering the United States is a problem that harms all of us,” Rokita said in a news release. “The ones paying the price for this lawlessness are Hoosier taxpayers, who must bear increased costs for health care, education and other services used by illegal immigrants.”

According to his office, letters were addressed to Monroe County, West Lafayette, East Chicago, and Gary.

In a May 14 letter to the East Chicago Common Council, Rokita inquired as to the status of a “welcoming city” ordinance and stated that a July 1 repeal was required.

This is due to the fact that legislation authorized Rokita’s office to implement a 13-year-old “sanctuary city” ban under Senate Enrolled Act 181.

For a considerable amount of time, Indiana law has prohibited local governments and their staff from refusing to cooperate or communicate with federal immigration officials regarding a person’s immigration status, whether it is legal or illegal.

Despite the ban’s approval by the General Assembly in 2011, several municipal governments continued to enact laws designating themselves as “sanctuary cities.”

The idea from the last session was made in response to resident-led lawsuits against two cities being dismissed by Indiana’s two highest courts for lack of standing. On July 1, the law will take effect.

After that day, Rokita warned East Chicago and the other units, “I will be statutorily required to bring an action to compel the city … to comply … .” Having an ordinance still on the books would constitute probable cause, he added.

Monroe County did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while East Chicago declined to comment.

Gary Mayor Eddie Melton urged Rokita to “help us out or leave us alone” in a statement.

Melton described Gary’s “welcoming city” ordinance as “thoroughly litigated and upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court” but said he’d work with the city’s lawmakers to address the legal threat.

“It is unfortunate that we continue to see laws passed … that target Gary. All the issues associated with these laws predate my administration, but the laws do nothing to help me move the city or the state of Indiana forward,” said Melton, a former state lawmaker who assumed the mayor’s office in January.

“As Mayor of Gary, all I want is to create opportunities for my community to flourish. Unfortunately, within the first six months of my administration we have repeatedly experienced unwarranted attacks and been dragged into national political debates around immigration and guns,” he continued. “These distractions take away from the hard work the Governor and I are doing together to rebuild the City of Gary.”

Larry Leverenz, the president of the West Lafayette Common Council, stated via email that he had not read Rokita’s letter since he was out of the country.

In the meantime, Rokita’s actions drew criticism from a prospective political rival.

Rokita’s immigration policies, according to veteran, attorney, and Indiana Democratic Party president Destiny Wells, are “divisive and detrimental to the unity and safety of our communities.” She is vying to be the nominee to take on Rokita in the autumn.

“As Attorney General, I will not attack localities for making decisions best suited for their unique circumstances,” Wells said in a news release. “Immigration policy is fundamentally a federal issue, and I will provide the latitude for federal authorities to address these matters appropriately. If the federal government asks for our assistance, we will assist within our duties. However, we will not go looking to use our statutory authorities to meddle in local affairs.”

“We must find a balance that respects the rule of law, supports our federal partners, and honors the autonomy of our local communities,” she added. “Hoosier taxpayers deserve policies that are both just and effective, not political grandstanding that jeopardizes our unity and safety.”


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