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Monday, July 12, 2004

Proposition 200: Cutting Through the Rhetoric and Getting to the Facts About the Protect Arizona Now Initiative

Proposition 200: Cutting Through the Rhetoric and Getting to the Facts About the Protect Arizona Now Initiative

Proposition 200: Cutting Through the Rhetoric and Getting to the Facts About the Protect Arizona Now Initiative
Monday July 12, 4:23 pm ET

WASHINGTON, July 12 /PRNewswire/ -- With more than 190,000 signatures, it seems likely that the Protect Arizona Now initiative, Proposition 200, will appear on the November ballot in Arizona. Since the petitions were turned into the Arizona Secretary of State on July 1, opponents of the ballot measure have launched a campaign of disinformation, aimed at distorting the language and objectives of Proposition 200, and impugning the motives of the people behind the initiative.
Large-scale illegal immigration is an important issue in Arizona and much of the rest of the nation, and it is crucial that the facts about Proposition 200 be reported accurately to the voters. What Proposition 200 says and does not say, what it would do and would not do, must be presented accurately so that voters can make an informed choice when they go to the polls on November 2.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the leading immigration policy organization in country, has prepared an analysis of what is contained in Proposition 200, and answers to key questions about the initiative and those who are behind it.

"We fully expect that opponents of the initiative will attempt to distort and mislead Arizona voters about Proposition 200," said Dan Stein, executive director of FAIR. "Therefore, it is important for the media and the public to have access to the facts about an initiative that has local and national implications."

FAIR staff attorney, Michael Hethmon, is available to discuss and provide additional information about Proposition 200. He can be reached at (202) 328-7004 or at attorney@fairus.org.

PROPOSITION 200: WHAT IT REALLY SAYS

The Proposition 200 (Protect Arizona Now) voter initiative was conceived and directed by Arizona residents. The diverse sponsors include local officials, civic leaders, businessmen, and conservationists. FAIR and other immigration reform organizations supported signature-gathering efforts to help put Proposition 200 on the 2004 ballot.
Arizona's illegal alien population is now estimated to be about 500,000. The annual cost of providing public benefits to illegal aliens living in Arizona now exceeds $1 billion, or $700 a year per household. Section 2 of the initiative states that illegal immigration is causing economic hardship, contradicts federal policy, undermines border security, and demeans the value of citizenship.
Proposition 200 Sections 3 and 4 require new voters to document their U.S. citizenship when they register to vote. Section 5 requires voters to present a photo ID at the polling place. These measures will protect the integrity of the voter rolls against corruption and fraud. Section 6.A.3 prohibits public agencies from accepting insecure identification cards to show eligibility for public benefits, unless the issuing agency has verified the immigration status of the cardholder.
Section 6.A.4 requires state and local government employees who discover a violation of federal immigration law to make a written report to federal immigration authorities.
Proposition 200 will not change the types of benefits that are denied to illegal aliens. Federal law already defines the types of state or local benefits for which lawful immigration status is required. These include grants, contracts, loans and licenses and any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, postsecondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or similar benefit for which assistance is provided by appropriated funds of a State or local government.
The procedures for verification of eligibility that will be required under Proposition 200 comply with federal regulations known as the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement) system. Arizona has used the SAVE system to verify eligibility for federally-funded benefit programs since 1999.
Illegal aliens cannot be denied access to benefits that are exempted from verification by federal law. These programs include K-12 education, emergency health care, immunization programs, in-kind disaster relief, emergency food assistance, federal school lunch programs, and public services that are necessary to protect life or safety.
Eligibility for state benefits and services will be determined solely by verification of an applicant's identity or immigration and nationality documents. Proposition 200 Section 6.C creates additional protections against discrimination not found in other federal or state law. Advocates for illegal aliens gain a new right to sue any government agency that discriminates in the verification process in state court.
SOME BASIC QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT PROPOSITION 200

Q1. Who is behind Proposition 200 (the Protect Arizona Now initiative)?


A1. Proposition 200 is a ballot initiative conceived and directed by residents of Arizona in 2003. The diverse sponsors include Arizona elected officials, grassroots civic leaders, concerned businessmen, and environmental activists. Because the issue is of national significance, FAIR and other immigration reform organizations independently supported signature-gathering efforts to ensure that the initiative appears on the 2004 ballot. Opponents of Proposition 200 similarly receive support from groups and individuals who advocate on behalf of illegal immigrants.

Q2. Why is Proposition 200 necessary?

A2. No one can deny that Arizona is experiencing a mass influx of illegal aliens seeking to unlawfully settle in Arizona. The net costs of providing benefits and services to the estimated 500,000 illegal aliens living in Arizona now exceeds $1 billion annually, or an average of $700 a year per household. Moreover, the numbers of illegal aliens and the cost of providing benefits and services are increasing rapidly.

Government agencies in Arizona currently have no uniform laws controlling when or how to verify the identity of an applicant for benefits, or whether that person is an ineligible illegal alien. Section 6.A.3 prohibits Arizona government agencies from accepting insecure identification cards for verification of public benefits eligibility. To protect the public against fraud and corruption in public services, the issuing agency must have verified the immigration status of the cardholder.

Q3. Why is it necessary to create new voter registration laws and require presentation of identification at polling places?

A3. The Arizona voter registration and election system was not designed to screen out non-citizens seeking to unlawfully register or vote. With hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens in Arizona, even a small incidence of alien voting corrupts the democratic process. Sections 3 and 4 of the initiative require new voters to document their U.S. citizenship when they register to vote. Section 5 requires voters to present a photo ID at the polling place on Election Day. These are simple but fair measures to protect the integrity of the voter rolls and the ballot box.

Q4. Isn't illegal immigration a federal matter?

A4. Immigration is a federal matter and should be enforced by the federal government. Under federal law, illegal aliens are prohibited from receiving many state and local public benefits. It is the responsibility of state and local governments to ensure that these laws are complied with.

Congress has given states the authority to enact uniform verification procedures under state law. Proposition 200 sets verification procedures for state and local public benefits that are consistent with the procedures that Arizona already follows for federally-funded benefits. Section 6.A.4 of the initiative requires state and local government employees who discover a violation of federal immigration law to make a written report to federal immigration authorities. The right of civil servants to report violations is already protected by federal law.

Proposition 200 does not regulate legal immigration or restrict the rights of lawful immigrants and foreign visitors in any way.

Q5. When voters in California tried to limit benefits for illegal aliens in 1994, a federal judge struck down Proposition 187. Why is Arizona Proposition 200 any different?

A5. California's Proposition 187 was never really tested in the courts. After a single federal district judge blocked Proposition 187, state officials did not vigorously defend the decision of the electorate. Ultimately, former California Governor Gray Davis refused to appeal that ruling, ignoring his duty to the 59 percent of the electorate that voted in favor of the measure.

Proposition 200 has been carefully worded to conform to existing federal laws and policies. Proposition 200 applies provisions of immigration and welfare reform legislation enacted by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996, and respects the different but complementary duties and powers of our state and federal governments.

Q6. What benefits or services will Proposition 200 deny to illegal aliens?

A6. Proposition 200 will not change the number or kinds of benefits that are already denied to illegal aliens. Section 6.A of the initiative requires Arizona government agencies to "verify the identity" and "verify that each applicant is eligible" for "state and local benefits that are not federally mandated," and to provide all state and local government employees with "information to verify the immigration status of any applicant for those benefits and assist the employee in obtaining that information from federal immigration authorities." The procedures for verification of eligibility must comply with federal regulations, commonly known as the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement) system. See 8 U.S.C. 1642(a)(3). Arizona has used the SAVE system to verify eligibility for federally-funded benefit programs since 1999.

Q7. Proposition 200 will help identify illegal aliens who are unlawfully receiving public benefits. Exactly what benefits and services are currently denied to illegal aliens?

A7. Federal law already defines the types of state or local benefits for which verification of lawful immigration status is required: "(A) any grant, contract, loan, professional license, or commercial license provided by an agency of a State or local government or by appropriated funds of a State or local government; and (B) any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, postsecondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or any other similar benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of a State or local government or by appropriated funds of a State or local government." See 8 U.S.C. 1621(c).

In order to comply with federal law, Proposition 200 requires that an applicant for such benefits provide documents showing that he or she is a bona fide U.S. citizen or legally admitted alien.

Q8. Will illegal aliens receive any public benefits if the voters approve Proposition 200?

A8. By federal law, illegal aliens in Arizona cannot be denied access to benefits and programs that are specifically exempted from verification. These programs include, but are not limited to, K-12 education, emergency health care, immunization programs, in-kind disaster relief, soup kitchens and other emergency food assistance, federal school lunch and breakfast programs, and those public services that are necessary to protect life or safety.

Q9. Won't Proposition 200 lead to discrimination based on appearance, ethnicity or national origin?

A9. Proposition 200 actually adds to federal and state civil rights policies that prohibit against discrimination or disparate treatment of individuals based on factors of race, religion, gender, or national origin. Eligibility for state benefits and services will be determined solely by verification of an applicant's identity or immigration and nationality documents.

Proposition 200 creates additional protections against discrimination not found in other federal or state law. Section 6.C of the initiative gives Arizona residents, including advocates for illegal aliens, the right to sue any government agency that discriminates in the verification process in state court. Section 6.C. requires that the Arizona state courts give these suits preference over other pending cases.

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