By Joe Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
A week after voters approved Proposition 200 by a double-digit margin, it is uncertain how or even if the new law will be implemented.
Proposition 200, called the Protect Arizona Now initiative, seeks to cut off public benefits to illegal immigrants. The proposition would require valid identification of citizenship when voting and seeking non-emergency welfare benefits, including food stamps and housing assistance.
Welfare benefits are specifically defined under Title 46 of Arizona Revised Statutes.
Andrea Esquer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Terry Goddard, said Goddard received a letter a few days after the election from the head of the state's health insurance program for the poor.
Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System's director Anthony Rodgers wrote Goddard seeking clarification on whether his agency, which falls under Title 36 of Arizona Revised Statutes, would be included under Proposition 200. Title 36 covers agencies working in public health and safety issues.
Rodgers wrote in the letter he was concerned about what "state and local public benefits" are covered under the new law.
Esquer said she expected Goddard to release a response to Rodgers this week.
She said the letter from Goddard is expected to be broad enough that other state agencies might be able to conclude whether their agencies will have to comply with the new law.
UA students who actively campaigned against the proposition in the weeks prior to the election were upset that it passed 56 to 44 percent.
Miguel De Zubeldia, a senior majoring in economics and Spanish literature, said he was angry when he found out the proposition passed.
"I am not a big (President) Bush fan, but that didn't faze me like Prop 200 getting passed." Zubeldia said.
Zubeldia, a member of Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs, said he thought the bill would become law despite possible court challenges. Zubeldia said the group was active in the community to let voters know about Proposition 200
"Unfortunately, I do see it becoming law," Zubeldia said.
Carmen Tirado-Paredes, a language reading and culture graduate student, said he thinks there will be a lot of opposition to Proposition 200 becoming law.
Tirado-Paredes, also a member of Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs, said he was surprised the proposition passed and said he thinks it will do nothing to solve immigration problems.
"It is scary," Tirado-Paredes said. "Who know what else can be passed?"
Adrienne McCauley, an anthropology junior, said she was sad when she learned Proposition 200 passed.
McCauley, a member of the Pima County Interfaith Council, a non-profit, interfaith organization active in getting out the vote in the community, said the PCIC took a hard stance against Proposition 200.
"(The proposition) sounds like a good idea, but reading deeper you get to see what this really is," McCauley said.
McCauley said the proposition could be interpreted broadly, and could go far beyond stopping voter and welfare fraud.
McCauley said she expected PCIC would eventually join a lawsuit challenging the proposition.
In a previous interview with the Wildcat, former Republican State Representative Randy Graf said charges against Proposition 200 are inaccurate, and said the bill is simply designed to reduce welfare fraud.
Opponents to Proposition 200 vow to fight the bill in court, challenging its constitutionality.
Pima County Legal Defender Isabel G. Garcia, who opposes the law, said the vague wording of the proposition would spur lawsuits on the context of the new law.
Garcia said she expects the Justice Department to look into whether the new law is constitutional.
As the new law affects voting in Arizona, the federal government must approve the law before it can go into effect.
Garcia said the law would violate voting rights. Garcia used the Tohono O'odham nation as a local example of a group of people who could be disenfranchised by the new law. She said there were as many 7,000 people born in small villages on the reservation who would not be able to produce proper identification under the new law.
"Are we going to tell them, in our arrogance, that they can't vote?" Garcia said.
Phoenix attorney Daniel Ortega, representing the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a national Latino advocacy institution, said he will file a challenge to the new law after state officials certify the election in late November.
Ortega said he would initially seek a temporary restraining order against the bill until he can get a court date for a preliminary injunction. A temporary restraining order lasts only 10 days, Ortega said.
Ortega would not comment on his legal strategy for the case, but said the challenge would be on the constitutionality of the law.
Attempts to reach Protect Arizona Now founder, Kathy McKee, were unsuccessful.