vote panics immigrants
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 5, 2004
Many unsure what's safe
Arizona Latino leaders say they have
been inundated with calls since voters approved Proposition 200 Tuesday, asking
whether immigrant parents should send their children to school or whether it's
safe to go shopping.
Representatives of the Valley's Head Start program said attendance dropped
substantially Wednesday as worried parents kept their children home from school.
In one classroom, only two children showed up. Normally, there are 20.
Rachael Schultz, spokeswoman for Maricopa County Human Services, said
Spanish-speaking teachers and staff members immediately called the parents to
assure them their children are safe at school. By Thursday, attendance was back
to normal, she said. The agency oversees the Head Start centers.
She said there are roughly 2,700 children enrolled Valley-wide in the federally
funded Head Start program, which has served children in the Phoenix area for
decades. Citizenship isn't a requirement.
Representatives of Latino organizations said Thursday that they are urging
people not to panic or overreact to the passage of Proposition 200, which should
not prevent people from shopping or carrying out most other daily activities.
"It's a very reasonable fear," said Thomas Saenz of the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Educational Fund.
The group has said it will ask a judge to issue a preliminary injunction against
Proposition 200 after the results are certified Nov. 22.
The initiative requires Arizonans to prove citizenship when seeking public
benefits or when registering to vote. Government employees will have to report
to immigration authorities suspected undocumented immigrants seeking public
Some of the nation's most prominent Latinos, including Janet Murgia of the
National Council of La Raza, will be in Phoenix today to try to reduce
immigrants' fears. Their strategies include working with Spanish-language media
to get their messages across.
Martin Delgado, a legal resident, said he fears for his wife, Antonia, because
she's here illegally. She is among the estimated 300,000 to 350,000 undocumented
immigrants in Arizona who, Latino leaders fear, may be forced to go further
"She fears even to go out to walk because anyone can ask her for legal papers,"
said Delgado, 33, who works at a grocery store in Phoenix. "She doesn't have any
type of identification, and now it will be harder to go around."
A decade ago, similar fears prompted many undocumented immigrants in California
to keep their school-age children at home and miss doctor visits after voters in
that state approved Proposition 187.
And leaders said the same may be happening here.
"There is apprehension and a lot of fear," said Elias Bermudez, executive
director of Centro de Ayuda, a Phoenix non-profit agency that advocates on
behalf of immigrants.
Bermudez said undocumented immigrants are calling his office incessantly wanting
to know what to expect as a result of Proposition 200.
"I tell them not to fear," Bermudez said. "I tell them the courts will
eventually strike down this law."
Unlike Proposition 187, which was put on hold by a federal judge almost
immediately, the Arizona initiative won't be challenged in court until election
results are certified Nov. 22.
Lawyers preparing the legal challenge said they don't know how long it will take
the courts to decide the fate of the initiative.
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