Backer to argue 200 covers many benefits
by Howard Fischer
Less than a week after voters approved Proposition 200, the head of one of the groups pushing the measure says he will argue in court that it applies to more than just welfare - contrary to what voters were repeatedly told.
Much more, like getting disability payments, housing assistance, a license to hunt, a permit to operate a food cart, and even a library card.
The initiative requires government workers to check the immigration status of anyone applying for "state and local public benefits." The exceptions are federally mandated benefits, including emergency hospital care and public education.
Randy Pullen, chairman of the Yes on 200 Committee, said Monday that the initiative covers anything defined in federal law as a "state or local benefit." He said the fact the section was placed in Title 46, the state's Welfare Code, is immaterial.
Pullen's interpretation is getting an argument, however, from some others who successfully worked for voter approval of the measure. Rusty Childress, who helped write the measure last year, said there was no intent to include government services other than welfare.
Childress acknowledged the word "welfare" was in an early draft of the initiative. He said it was taken out on advice of an attorney who said it would muddle the argument.
It was not, said Childress, a clandestine effort to actually push through a broader measure.
But Pullen has a powerful ally on his side: the Federation for American Immigration Reform. That organization provided a large share of the funds both to put the initiative on the ballot and to wage the campaign.
And it is that group that has the resources - and is likely to intervene on behalf of Pullen - for litigation to determine the legality of the initiative as well as its scope.
Mike Hethmon, its legal counsel, pointed out that Tim Nelson, attorney for Gov. Janet Napolitano, said in an Aug. 22 memo that he read the initiative to suggest supporters "appear to intend that it have a broad impact."
"I personally agree with him entirely," said Hethmon.
Hethmon said Proposition 200's reach probably goes even beyond state-issued permits and licenses. He said companies could lose government contracts if they hire those not entitled to work here.
The stance of Pullen and the federation provoked anger from Steve Roman, spokesman for the anti-200 campaign, who had said the measure might be broader than simply ensuring those not here legally do not get welfare benefits. "I find it very sad that they would say one thing and do another," he said.
Roman said that Pullen himself, during one debate, stated flat out that the initiative applies only to welfare.
"I never said that," Pullen responded Monday.
"I said that it could be limited to welfare," he added. "I could understand how it could be, legally."
Pullen, who headed one of two pro-initiative committees, said Proposition 200 would not apply to routine government services like police and fire protection.
He said his stance should come as no surprise: The Yes on 200 Web site specifically says the federal law referred to in the initiative includes not only welfare but also grants, contracts, loans, licenses, disability, public housing and postsecondary education.
But state Reps. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, and Randy Graf, R-Green Valley, both of whom were involved in the early stages, said it always was understood that placing the language in the Welfare Code would limit it to welfare.
"It doesn't include libraries; it doesn't include parks," said Pearce. He said if there is any question, he will sponsor legislation next session to clarify the matter.
Graf noted the initiative refers to applicants for "public benefits." Graf said even if that phrase isn't defined, the initiative specifically refers to applicants, something already defined in law as someone who has applied for assistance or services under the Welfare Code.
There actually were two pro-200 campaigns with separate leaders. Kathy McKee, organizer of the original Protect Arizona Now initiative, has stuck to her claims that the initiative is limited to welfare, though she also includes the state's health insurance program for the poor under that.
Attorney General Terry Goddard already has been asked for a formal legal opinion on the scope of the initiative. Goddard expects to have it ready before the election outcome is certified on Nov. 22.
At the same time, anti-200 attorney Danny Ortega is preparing to ask a federal judge to enjoin the state from enforcing any part of the initiative until a full trial over its constitutionality. Goddard said he will defend the voter-passed