November 4, 2004
Hispanic rights groups are going to ask a federal court to block Proposition 200 from ever being allowed to take effect.
Daniel Ortega, a board member of the National Council of La Raza, said Wednesday that the initiative approved by Arizona voters violates the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress supremacy in immigration issues.
He said some provisions of the measure illegally put the state and its employees in the position of enforcing immigration law.
Ortega said he will seek a restraining order to halt enforcement of the new law until a full trial. Quick action is necessary: Proposition 200 becomes effective Nov. 22.
Kathy McKee, organizer of the Protect Arizona Now initiative, said the measure is legal.
McKee said she interprets the Constitution as stating that states cannot prevent their employees from cooperating with the federal government. She said Proposition 200 puts Arizona into compliance with that requirement, as applications for the state’s health insurance program for the poor specifically say the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System "will not report any information" to immigration officials.
But Ortega said Proposition 200 deputizes state and local employees to both identify those who apply for "public benefits" who are not here legally and to report them to federal officials. Those who do not comply are subject to jail terms of up to four months.
Ortega also said initiative language that requires proof of legal residency to get those benefits violates due process because there are no provisions for a hearing for those rejected.
McKee said these people would have the same rights as anyone else denied welfare benefits for any other reason.
Ortega said the other key legal flaw is with a section requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. He said that runs afoul of other federal laws.
He may not need to make that case by himself. Any change in voting procedures that could affect minority voting rights must be "precleared" by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Secretary of State Jan Brewer said at least one other state has received federal approval for a requirement that voters provide identification when they cast a ballot, another provision of the initiative.
But no one knows of any other state that requires proof of citizenship to register, much less receiving federal approval.
Gov. Janet Napolitano, a foe of the measure, said Wednesday she has no plans to challenge its provisions. Nor does she intend to use tactics to try to keep it from taking effect.