Prop. 200 a spur to state to do its job
THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR Over the vehement opposition of the entire Arizona political establishment, on Nov. 2, Arizona voters adopted Proposition 200 by a decisive 56 percent to 44 percent vote.
The governor, both U.S. senators, most of Arizona's congressional delegation, the Catholic Church, the Chamber of Commerce, public-employee labor unions, major Latino organizations and most of the state's daily newspapers opposed it. Yet, despite this juggernaut of criticism, the people of Arizona adopted it.
The success of Proposition 200 has sent shock waves across the country, and several states are now considering similar ballot initiatives. But the message is broader and deeper than merely the protection of taxpayers from welfare fraud.
Citizens want something done about illegal immigration, and they are tired of excuses and cute sloganeering.
It is true that the federal government has primary responsibility for border control, and it needs to start taking that job seriously.
But state taxpayers are the ones most directly affected by the massive flow of illegal aliens, now estimated at 3 million each year entering our country, and officials need to start enforcing state laws as well.
Unfortunately, the struggle to enforce our laws did not end on Nov. 2. Opponents went into U.S. District Court in Tucson on Nov. 30 and obtained a temporary restraining order blocking its implementation.
But on Dec. 22, the federal judge lifted that order, and the law is now being implemented. Contrary to assertions by opponents, the measure does not interfere with any federally mandated program or benefit.
Exit polls showed Proposition 200 was favored by majorities in all age groups, by both men and women, urban and rural voters, and by voters from middle and lower incomes.
An overwhelming 72 percent of voters with incomes under $15,000 approved it. Perhaps most important, 47 percent of Latino voters supported it. Protestants approved it by 62 percent and Catholics by 55 percent.
The main dividing line on Proposition 200 was ideological, not racial, economic or religious.
Republicans supported it by 70 percent, whereas Democrats gave it only 42 percent support.
Proposition 200 does not deprive any citizen or legal resident of any rights. Citizens knew what they were voting for. All it really does is require state officials to enforce existing state laws regarding voting rights and access to public benefits. It explicitly exempts emergency services and K-12 education mandated by the federal government.
The campaign against this measure was nasty and full of gross misrepresentations of its true intent.
The initiative was not anti-immigrant, it was anti-illegal entrant. It does not interfere with federal immigration enforcement. On the contrary, it complements and supports law enforcement.
The federal government has unquestionably neglected its duty to protect our nation's borders, and Congress needs to step up and address border security in an honest way.
But in view of the massive numbers of illegal entrants now in our country - recently estimated by Bear Stearns at 20 million, not the 9 million estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau - states have an obligation to protect the integrity of voter registration rolls and to also take reasonable steps to prevent the abuse of state social services.
Arizona has taken a giant step to force public officials to perform their sworn duties. Yet, it may take similar efforts in many states before the political establishment begins to sing from the same hymnal.
● Republican Tom Tancredo represents Colorado's Littleton-based 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. Readers can reach him by e-mail at