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Rokita threatens local communities with lawsuits over alleged 'sanctuary city' policies

Todd Rokita clasps his hands together while standing in the Indiana House balcony. Rokita is a White man with dark, graying hair, wearing a dark suit.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
The General Assembly in 2024 gave Attorney General Todd Rokita's office authority to enforce a 2011 ban on sanctuary city policies.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is threatening to sue three cities and a county for what he claims are violations of the state’s ban on “sanctuary cities.”

A 2011 Indiana law bans local governments from restricting cooperation with federal officials over citizenship or immigration information.

The General Assembly followed up this year by authorizing the attorney general to enforce that law, since the state Supreme Court had blocked a group of citizens from suing over a Gary ordinance.

Rokita is using that new authority to threaten Gary, East Chicago, West Lafayette and Monroe County, telling them to repeal “current policies violating Indiana law.”

READ MORE: Indiana Republicans seek to legally enforce ban on sanctuary cities

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Both Gary and East Chicago have “welcoming city” ordinances that limit cooperation with federal authorities over immigration enforcement.

No such ordinance seems to exist in West Lafayette, though a 2017 resolution said no city employee should investigate citizenship or immigration status unless ordered by state or federal law or a court order.

And a review of Monroe County code and resolutions dating back 10 years shows no apparent language related to sanctuary cities.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.