Tucson Citizen
Friday, September 17, 2004

PROP. 200: IMMIGRATION MEASURE: 'It does not solve the problem'

Foes seek $1M war chest to beat ballot item


Critics of a ballot measure aimed at curtailing illegal immigrants' access to state services said yesterday they hope to raise at least $1 million to defeat the measure in November.
About 60 people gathered at the Old Pima County Courthouse to hear members of a newly formed coalition of political, business, religious and social service organizations denounce Proposition 200.

Two Republicans - former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods and Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup - spoke against the measure. Democratic Pima County supervisors Richard Elías and Ramón Valadez and Democrat City Councilman José Ibarra also were at the news conference sponsored by Arizonans for Real Immigration Reform.

Also announcing opposition to the measure yesterday were the Pima County Interfaith Council and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. All urge voters to reject the measure.

The measure would not accomplish its goal, Walkup said.

"It does not solve the problem of illegal immigration," said Walkup, who is serving his second term.

Instead, it will prove costly to local governments to enforce through additional paperwork and staff time, he said.

Backers of Proposition 200 said yesterday critics are misinforming the public.

"They're making it sound like anybody who is trying to do anything in the state of Arizona is going to have problems," said state Rep. Randy Graf.

The measure is not intended to stop illegal immigration, Graf said. But it will make it more difficult for noncitizens to vote, something proposition backers believe happens.

"I'm sure they are" voting illegally, Graf said. "To the extent it is widespread, I don't know."

Proposition 200 would mandate that anyone seeking government services or benefits prove legal resident status. It would also require voters to prove U.S. citizenship and government workers to report suspected illegal immigrants.

Critics say Proposition 200 will make life a hassle for everyone.

"If you want a public benefit, then you would have to show proof of your right to be here," Woods told the audience.

Elías called the measure "extremely divisive," and Valadez labeled it "an issue of extremism."

The coalition was formed last week, Woods said. It will be an uphill battle to overcome what an Arizona Republic poll last week indicated was a 66 percent approval rating for the measure, Woods conceded later.

"The question is: Can we get the word out to people in six weeks?" Woods said. "If people understand what it really will do, they will vote 'no' against it."

The group has pledges for about $1 million, but hopes to raise as much as $2 million for a multimedia campaign, Woods said.

Graf, who earlier this month lost to incumbentJim Kolbe in the Republican primary for the District 8 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said critics of the measure got a late start because they expected a court to keep the measure off the ballot.

But a judge ruled the measure could stay on the ballot, forcing opponents to scramble, Graf said.

Backers of Proposition 200 hope to raise $750,000 to get their message across to voters, Graf said.

U.S. Sen. John McCain also spoke out yesterday against Proposition 200, the Associated Press reported.

"I understand the frustration of every Arizonan (with the problems of illegal immigration)," McCain said, according to the AP. "I just don't believe this is the right way to go."

McCain said he will work with opponents to defeat the measure. He said he continues to believe that general immigration reform is the only way to deal with the problem.

A state legislator called for a boycott of some businesses perceived to be opponents of Proposition 200, the AP reported.

"There ought to be a boycott for folks who continue to thumb their noses at the laws of the state of Arizona and to fund groups who don't respect the taxpayer," said state Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Organizations fighting the immigration initiative include the Arizona Chamber or Commerce, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, the Arizona Interfaith Network, the Phoenix Firefighters Union and the Service Employees International Union.