By Dan McFeely
A conservative black pastor from Los Angeles warned of racial conflicts, primarily between Hispanics and blacks, if Hoosier lawmakers don't pass an illegal immigration bill this week.
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson -- who was flown in from California by supporters of the illegal immigration bill that is barely alive at the Statehouse -- said because his state has not done anything to stem the tide of illegal immigrants in the Los Angeles area, blacks have felt pushed to the side and have lost jobs.
Indiana could face the same, he warned in a Statehouse press conference this morning.
The comments come after weeks of attempts by the bill's author to keep race out of the debate.
Peterson, the founder of the Brotherhood of Organization of a New Destiny, said he has ministered to young black men for the past 18 years. He said overcrowded schools have led to more black dropouts and that it is typical for black "day laborers" to be denied jobs because they don't speak Spanish.
Peterson, a constant critic of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, is the author of "Scam: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America." He has been criticized by other national black leaders for taking an extreme view on various matters.
This morning's press conference was organized by IFIRE, the Indiana Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement, which has been pushing a law to fight illegal immigration.
After the press conference Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, the bill's author, distanced himself from the discussion about race.
"I can't control what other people say," said Delph, who noted he did not organize the press conference. "Everybody has their right to speak and share their views.
"This gentleman is entitled to his view. Obviously he lives in a different world out in Los Angeles than the world we live in here in Indiana."
The immigration bill is currently in limbo, waiting for the House of Representatives to appoint conferees for a conference committee -- without which the legislation cannot advance.
Delph on Monday unveiled compromise language that he would like to insert into the bill. This morning, he said he remained optimistic.
"Right now the Speaker of the House has the ball," Delph said, referring to B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, who adjourned the House yesterday without naming conferees.
The House won't reconvene until Thursday, at which time there will be just two days remaining in the session.