Arizona Daily Sun
November 4, 2004

Hispanic rights groups to ask court to block Prop. 200

Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Hispanic rights groups are going to ask a federal court to block Proposition 200 from ever being allowed to take effect.
Daniel Ortega, a board member of the National Council of La Raza, said Wednesday the initiative adopted by Arizona voters violates the U.S. Constitution which gives Congress supremacy in immigration issues. He said some provisions of the measure illegally put the state and its employees in the position of enforcing immigration law.

Ortega said he will seek a restraining order to halt enforcement of the new law until a full trial. Quick action is necessary: Proposition 200 becomes effective Nov. 22 after the formal canvas of the vote.

Kathy McKee, organizer of the Protect Arizona Now initiative, said she believes the measure is legal.

McKee said she reads the Constitution to actually bar states from keeping their employees from cooperating with the federal government. She said Proposition 200 actually puts Arizona into compliance with that requirement, as applications for the state's health insurance program for the poor specifically say that the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System "will not report any information" to immigration officials.

But Ortega said Proposition 200 actually deputizes state and local employees to both identify those who apply for "public benefits" who are not here legally and to report them to federal officials. Those who do not comply are subject to jail terms of up to four months.

Ortega also said initiative languate which requires proof of legal residency to get those benefits violates due process because there are no provisions for a hearing for those who are rejected.

McKee said these people would have the same rights as anyone else denied welfare benefits for any other reason.

Ortega said the other key legal flaw is with a section requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. He said that runs afoul of other federal laws.

He may not need to make that case by himself: Any change in voting procedures that could affect minority voting rights must be "precleared" by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Secretary of State Jan Brewer said at least one other state has received federal approval for a requirement that voters provide identification when they cast a ballot, another provision of the initiative. But no one knows of any other state which requires proof of citizenship to register, much less receiving federal approval.

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a foe of the measure, said Wednesday she has no plans to challenge its provisions. Nor does she intend to use tactics to try to keep it from taking effect.

"I'm not going to play games with Prop 200," she said.

"I will wait for the canvas to be done as I'm required to do by law," Napolitano explained. "But I view the proclamation (of the election results), whatever I'm supposed to do, as a ministerial act and we will move appropriately."

Napolitano said it was clear that the initiative approved Tuesday by a wide margin was a measure of the frustration of many Arizonans with the problem of those who cross the border illegally. But Napolitano said their anger is misdirected.

"The problem is they sent the message at the wrong level," the governor said. "The level is at the federal level."

But Napolitano said Tuesday's vote -- and similar frustrations throughout the country with the problems of illegal immigration -- present an opportunity George W. Bush who now no longer needs to worry about reelection.

"For his historic legacy I hope that he will take up some of these politically difficult issues and work with the Congress to get us some help," Napolitano said.

"Arizona's bearing the brunt of the fact that over the last four year's we've had no significant movement on immigration," the governor continued. "And in fact Arizona's border was left to be a funnel place for illegal immigration."