Four propositions aimed at curbing illegal immigration were headed for a landslide victory on Tuesday, a clear sign that Arizona voters are frustrated with the lack of congressional action on the issue.
The most controversial of the four immigration-related propositions is 300, which will prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition, financial assistance or access to state-subsidized childcare and family literacy programs. It will also require the Board of Education, community colleges, universities and the Department of Economic Security to report any illegal immigrants who try to apply for those programs.
The other three measures will make English the official language of Arizona, deny bail to illegal immigrants accused of felonies and prevent illegal immigrants from collecting punitive damages in court.
Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, one of the state’s most outspoken supporters of immigration reform, said he was happy with the results Tuesday night. Pearce said that based on his conversations with his constituents, he was confident all along the propositions would pass.
“They are common sense,” Pearce said of the referendums. “They give me faith in the public.”
He added: “We recognize the importance of assimilation. We recognize that noncitizens, especially those in the country illegally, should not be treated better or equal to citizens.”
Immigrants’ advocates in Arizona have been fighting Prop. 300 because they believe it will be most detrimental to immigrant families. The proposition has been the target of several student protests at Arizona State University, and organizations like Arizona Interfaith Network have actively campaigned against the measure.
Immigration leaders have noted that the measures seem counteractive. On one hand, Prop. 103 declares English the official language as a means to encourage new residents to learn the language. But Prop. 300 would deny access to adult education for illegal immigrants who are looking to enroll in English language classes.
On Tuesday, activists were extremely disappointed in the election results, but they were not surprised.
“I think that this is just a sign that Arizonans are frustrated with the immigration issue,” said Linda Brown, the executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. “You could put that illegal immigrants are not allowed to eat bacon and eggs on the chart, and it would go down.”