August 19, 2004
Arizona taxpayers will have to shell out tens of millions of dollars if voters approve a measure designed to block services to people here illegally, according to directors of various state agencies.
Reports sought by Gov. Janet Napolitano, obtained by Capitol Media Services, show that department heads believe they will be responsible for checking the immigration status of everyone who comes looking for services. That, they said, will mean more time — and more staff.
Steve Owens, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, figured it would cost his agency $10.5 million a year to verify the citizenship of those who bring their vehicles into emission inspection stations.
Dennis Garrett, who runs the state Department of Public Safety, said he will need close to an extra $8 million every year — plus $3 million in initial training — because his officers will be forced to determine the legal status of people stopped on highways and file reports with federal authorities.
Ken Travous, director of Arizona State Parks, said his employees would have to turn away anyone who did not have proper federal identification to prove legal residency. He said that means lower admission revenue.
The Department of Health Services concluded that if it can’t give immunizations to people who can’t prove citizenship, there could be untold effects if disease spreads among all Arizona residents.
The reports drew an angry reaction from Rep. Randy Graf, R-Green Valley, one of the supporters of Proposition 200. He accused Napolitano, who opposes the initiative, of using scare tactics and an incorrect interpretation of the law to convince voters to oppose the measure.
Graf pointed out the provision of Proposition 200 in question is inserted into the state welfare system’s rules. Graf said that limits its effects to things such as welfare benefits and state -provided health care.
"It’s an absolute stretch, in my estimation, to think that Game and Fish is going to have to check the citizenship status of anyone applying for a hunting license," he said. "The governor is grasping at straws to try to make it a platform to defeat the initiative on."
Gubernatorial spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer denied a political agenda.
"We’re not trying to stack the deck,’’ she said. L’Ecuyer noted that several Napolitano appointees concluded passage of the measure would have little affect on what they do.
But the memo sent to department heads, crafted by Diane Saunders, Napolitano’s director of cabinet affairs, noted the initiative contains no specific definitions.
"Consequently, you should construe the term ‘public benefit’ in its broadest sense as it pertains to your agency," she wrote.
The part of Proposition 200 at issue would require public employees to check the legal immigration status of applicants for "public benefits." The only exception would be for federally mandated programs such as public education and emergency health care.
It also would mandate that public workers file a written report to federal authorities if an applicant turns out to not be in the state legally. Violators could face up to four months in jail.
Several agency directors said that, at minimum, they would have to train employees to figure out who is breaking the law so that their workers do not wind up facing criminal charges.
L’Ecuyer said the wording is not as clear as initiative supporters claim.
She said Proposition 200 allows any Arizona resident to sue the state government for perceived violations of the initiative’s provisions. What that also means, L’Ecuyer said, is that taxpayers will have to spend money to defend those lawsuits.