Indiana Attorney General threatens lawsuits against Gary, East Chicago over immigration policies

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NBC 5 News

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita on Friday threatened legal action against the cities of Gary and East Chicago, as well as two other local governments, over so-called "sanctuary city" policies.

In a news release, Rokita said he sent letters to officials in East Chicago, Gary, West Lafayette and Monroe County, urging them to rescind "local policies that enable illegal immigration." If the local governments don't comply, they will "face swift legal consequences" starting July 1, Rokita warned.

“The flood of illegal immigrants entering the United States is a problem that harms all of us,” the state attorney general said in the release, in part. “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.”

Rokita said a "sanctuary city" is a "local unit of government that has adopted a policy to deliberately and intentionally disregard federal law and not cooperate with federal immigration authorities."

Indiana lawmakers earlier this year passed Senate Bill 181, which sought to amend existing state law to authorize the attorney general to file suit against any Indiana college, university or unit of local government not enforcing state laws banning sanctuary cities, according to Indiana Senate Republicans.

In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation that prohibits government entities from limiting or restricting actions by other bodies inquiring about a person's citizenship or immigration status.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in August of 2022 dismissed a lawsuit challenging the validity of East Chicago's "Welcoming City" ordinance, saying the plaintiffs - who don't reside in the city - "lacked standing to challenge the ordinance," according to a previous report by the Times of Northwest Indiana.

One month prior, the Indiana Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit that claimed Gary's policy of prioritizing local public safety needs and protecting the rights of immigrants unlawfully violated Indiana's 2011 prohibition on sanctuary cities, the newspaper reported.

In 2017, a number of cities across the U.S. passed "welcoming city" ordinances in opposition to then-President Donald Trump's immigration policies. Such ordinances direct government officials not to provide information about a person's immigration status to federal immigration authorities.

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