Posted on Thu, Dec. 04, 2003
Initiative targets illegal immigrants
By Jack Chang
Proponents of a controversial 1994 ballot initiative that would have denied public services to illegal immigrants are trying to place a similar measure before voters next year.
Their campaign promises to re-ignite the impassioned debate over illegal immigration that raged statewide in the 1990s.
Late Tuesday, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley cleared the advocacy group Save Our State to seek the required 598,105 signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. The campaign deadline is April 29, 2004.
Initiative proponent Ron Prince of Huntington Beach said the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis and popular support for repealing a recently signed law giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses encouraged him to launch the effort.
Prince was also the proponent of Proposition 187, the 1994 measure that won voter approval but which the courts nullified.
"The biggest thing that helped set the stage is the clear, massive support for the referendum" repealing the driver's license law, Prince said.
"It takes away concern that dealing with these issues will be harmful to political careers. In fact, I believe it proves the opposite to be true."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday night signed the repeal of SB60, the driver's license law.
Opponents of the proposed initiative are already calling it "the son of 187." They predicted history would repeat itself with the courts striking down the new measure if voters approve it and that Latinos would gain political clout mobilizing to defeat it.
"Politically and in terms of inter-ethnic relations in California, it's a very divisive measure," said Mark Silverman, a San Francisco attorney who helped challenge Prop. 187. "It's very much like 187."
Among its provisions, the initiative would amend the state constitution to require all public agencies statewide to verify the legal immigration status of anyone applying for "(s)tate and local public benefits" and require public employees to report any violation of federal immigration law.
Taking aim at current hot topics in the immigration wars, the measure would also require applicants for state driver's licenses to prove they are legal immigrants and would prohibit public entities from accepting consular identification cards that are popular among Mexican newcomers.
Prince said the initiative would avoid the fate of Prop. 187 because it uses language in a 1996 federal law that he said allows states to enforce federal immigration law. Federal courts had found provisions of Prop. 187 unconstitutional because they were superseded by federal law or court precedent.
Silverman argued that federal law still prohibits states from enforcing federal immigration law.
Prince said he has yet to begin raising funds for the petition-gathering effort but said his group has thousands of volunteers at its disposal.
Save Our State launched a similar but unsuccessful effort to launch a ballot measure after Davis reached an agreement in 1999 with Prop. 187 opponents allowing the voter-approved measure to die.
The new campaign's success will hinge on whether prominent Republicans throw their political and financial support behind it, Silverman said.
Prince said he has not yet tried to enlist such support.