Groups seek to duplicate migrant law
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 24, 2005

Yvonne Wingett

Arizona's Proposition 200 is cloning itself across the country, inspiring an imitation in Arkansas and a self-help group to guide similar anti- illegal immigration efforts.

Two of Arkansas' Republican lawmakers on Friday proposed Protect Arkansas NOW, a Proposition 200 copycat that would require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and when applying for public benefits. The welcome reception of Proposition 200 in Arizona has emboldened those lawmakers and grass-roots groups to raise money, collect signatures and strategize to put similar measures before legislators or to a public vote.

They are buoyed by Proposition 200's national media attention and believe its constitutionality will stand up in court. In addition, Protect Arizona NOW's Kathy McKee has launched Protect America NOW to help proponents of the measures organize and build a membership base.

"We've been contacted by people in every state except for Hawaii . . . saying, 'How do we do this,' " McKee said. "They wanted to see how the postelection challenge went. When it went according to plan and didn't drag on forever . . . they said, 'OK, let's get busy.' "

The curse of California's failed Proposition 187 has worn off and many see Proposition 200-type measures as a tool in the arsenal to pressure the federal government to improve border security and decrease illegal immigration.

About three dozen grass-roots groups in various levels of development are working with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national anti-immigration group that poured money into the Proposition 200 campaign. These groups are highly mobilized and spread FAIR's agenda against amnesty, a guest-worker program and illegal immigration.

The interest reverberating across the country in Proposition 200 imitations suggests a mounting movement against anti-illegal immigration and its burden on American taxpayers. Activists say they are desperate to protect America's culture, language and borders from southern immigrants.

"We have become a Third World dumping ground," said Protect Arkansas Now's Joe McCutchen, a 73-year-old resident of Fort Smith, Ark. "It's just madness. I'm hoping that we can wake up Americans to defend our sovereignty, the Constitution and save this Republic from this massive invasion."

Tremendous growth between 1990 and 2000 among some states that had previously had low Hispanic populations, such as Arkansas, Colorado and Georgia, is spawning the movement, experts said.

Proposition 200 requires state and local employees to confirm and report the immigration status of people applying for public benefits. Employees must turn the undocumented into immigration authorities or face a prosecution, up to four months in jail and a $750 fine.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has said the measure applies to only five programs that provide eyesight services and help with utility repairs, among other public benefits. Proposition 200 proponents have a lawsuit pending that would expand Goddard's definition to include more services. They return to Maricopa County Superior Court in Mesa later this month.

Proposition 200-type laws likely will be ineffective and will not advance federal immigration reform, believes one national immigration expert.

"They're not going to solve it, they're not going to stop a single person from coming," said Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "Prop. 200 did not scare either the president or the most popular politician in America . . . John McCain, away from pursuing a solution that really would work."

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-4712 or