Students debate public benefits of Prop. 200

By Joe Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 21, 2004

The chief complaint about Proposition 200 is its lack of details, which, if passed, could have great ramifications in most state services.

The litany of complaints voiced by the opposition to Proposition 200 can be boiled down to the definition of public benefits.

Proposition 200, called the Protect Arizona Now initiative, seeks to cut off public benefits to illegal immigrants. Specifically, the proposition would require valid identification of citizenship when voting and seeking non-emergency welfare benefits including food stamps and housing assistance.

These benefits are specifically defined under Title 46 of Arizona Revised Statutes.

But opponents to Proposition 200 say the proposition was poorly written, saying the proposed law might cover more than benefits described in title 46.

Maritza Broce, a field co-coordinator for the Campaign to Defeat Proposition 200, said it could have far-reaching complications for the state.

Broce said the proposition could affect the health care, education and voter turnout in Arizona.

"Its very vague language," Broce said.

Broce said Proposition 200 is similar to California's Proposition 187 from several years ago. Proposition 187 sought to cut off medical and other public services to illegal immigrants. A federal court found the law unconstitutional after the proposition was passed.

"(Proposition 200) was imported by the proponents of 187. They said they fixed it all, but they didn't." Broce said.

Broce told students Monday at a brown bag luncheon at the UA that Proposition 200 could affect health care in Arizona. By requiring identification for medical services, Broce said anonymous testing for STDs and HIV could be jeopardized.

"These services need to be anonymous," Broce said.

Broce also said students in kindergarten through 12th grade could face health risks. She said illegal immigrants' children might not be able to get vaccinations if Proposition 200 is passed.

Due to a federal court ruling, it is illegal to ask students their citizenship. Broce suggested the proposition might lead to children who have not been vaccinated attending public schools, risking the chance of infecting other children.

"One kid with TB could be devastating," Broce said.

Broce also reminded the students a driver's license is not valid to prove their citizenship, that driver's licenses are provided to people with travel and work visas. She said a person would likely need to provide a birth certificate to prove their citizenship.

"They need to photocopy (the birth certificate) and keep in on file," Broce said.

Broce said Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez is against keeping such documents on file.

In addition to possible changes in distributing benefits, Broce said Arizona has to train state workers on how to properly identify valid documents. She likened the training to becoming a federal immigration officer.

Proposition 200 outlines a punishment of four months in jail for state workers who do not comply with the new laws.

Republican State Representative Randy Graf said the charges against Proposition 200 are inaccurate, and the bill is simply designed to reduce welfare fraud.

Graf said the accusations that the proposition has been introduced by parties outside of Arizona are false.

He said the founder of the Protect Arizona Now initiative started working on the proposal last year after a similar bill in the state legislature was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. "The governor vetoed the bill, calling it racist," Graf said.

Graf denies the racist label; saying if passed, the law would be applied to everyone equally.

"This is about preventing fraud," Graf said. "A vast majority of Arizonans want welfare reform."

Graf said the proposition's primary focus is to stop welfare payments to illegal immigrants by requiring proper identification when seeking benefits.

Graf has been working as a senior adviser at Protect Arizona Now since early July 2003.

Attempts to reach Protect Arizona Now founder, Kathy McKee, were unsuccessful.