Arizona Republic
November 9, 2006

Author: Mike Madden and Yvonne Wingett, The Arizona Republic; Staff reporter Daniel González contributed to this article.
Estimated printed pages: 4

Republicans failed to harness anger over illegal immigration to save their majorities in Congress with several border security hardliners losing elections Tuesday.

Yet ballot initiatives in Arizona curbing the rights of undocumented immigrants won big majorities, illustrating growing frustration over the hundreds of thousands of people entering the country illegally every year.

That combination sends a strong message from voters to the Bush administration and the new Democratic Congress on immigration: the current system is broken, and technology on the border and a 700-mile fence isn't enough to fix it.

"It's an exhaustive debate that's been going on in this state for a decade and people are just sick and tired of it," said former Democrat state Sen.
Alfredo Gutierrez, a Spanish-language radio talk show host and immigrant activist. "You've got the Minutemen at the border, you've got (State Rep.) Russell Pearce talking about wetbacks, you've got people calling him a racist, you've got people calling for deportations. People are frustrated, they're angry, they want something done."

Exit polls showed 62 percent of voters considered illegal immigration either "extremely" or "very" important as they made up their minds in Tuesday's elections. But 57 percent of voters also believed most undocumented immigrants should be given a chance to apply for legal status, with only 38 percent favoring deportation, according to exit polling taken for a coalition of media.

The sweeping approval of the four Arizona initiatives -- even as Rep. J.D.
Hayworth, R-Arizona, trailed and Republican candidate Randy Graf lost in a border district -- showed that voters are fed up with waiting for Washington to fix the problem, political experts, candidates and voters said.

"Normally, I'd be opposed to this, but ... I'm going to vote for them to send a message," said Nate Caine, 50, a retired electrical engineer and a registered independent from Mesa.

He researched the state's 19 ballot propositions for weeks before voting "yes" on Tuesday to four immigration measures that n part restrict state services, English classes and education for undocumented immigrants. "These problems have gotten to the level that people are frustrated," Caine said.
"They don't want to be mean-spirited, but we've got to get the legislature to do something about this."

Immigration is one of the only areas where President Bush and the new Democratic leaders in Congress agree. The White House split with many Republicans to support broad reforms that would have made it easier for foreigners to come here legally to work and let millions of undocumented immigrants already in the country earn legal status.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican, is a leading sponsor of that approach. But those reforms stalled this year, even with bipartisan Senate support. GOP leaders in the House insisted on passing border security upgrades before dealing with broader issues.

Most House Democrats voted against the Republican bills, and many lobbyists on immigration believe there are enough votes from moderate Republicans and Democrats to pass a sweeping reform bill if leaders bring one up for debate.

A handful of "enforcement-first" Republicans lost Tuesday, from Hayworth to New Hampshire Rep. Charlie Bass. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., another strong opponent of broad reforms, also lost. Six members of a conservative caucus led by Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., were defeated, as was Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., the chairman of a House immigration subcommittee.

Bush reached out to Democrats Wednesday, calling immigration "an issue where I believe we can find some common /ground." Activists are waiting to see whether Democrats will want to work with a weakened Bush to give him a victory on what has been one of his signature issues.

Israel Toriz is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico City and a student at Scottsdale Community College. He worries more and more with each election about his future in this county, his education and his chances of becoming a legal resident.

Meanwhile, Elias Bermudez, president of the Immigrants Without Borders group in Phoenix, expressed outrage that the four immigration-related ballot measures in Arizona passed. In response, he plans to organize a weeklong work stoppage and economic boycott Dec. 12. He said he will also go on a hunger strike.

Immigration initiatives

Arizona voters, to almost a 3-1 margin, supported four anti-illegal immigration measures that would make living in Arizona tougher for undocumented immigrants.

Proposition 100: Bailable Offenses

Prevents those charged with serious felonies from being eligible for bail if they are in the country illegally.

Proposition 102: Standing in Civil Actions

Blocks undocumented immigrants from being able to obtain punitive damages in lawsuits. Limits awards to actual damages.

Proposition 103: English as the Official Language

Requires state government to take all formal action in English. Includes many exemptions, such as for legal proceedings. It won't change bilingual ballots, which are required by federal law.

Proposition 300: Public Program Eligibility

Blocks undocumented immigrants from accessing state- subsidized programs for adult education and child care, among other programs.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Front
Page: A21

Copyright (c) The Arizona Republic. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: pho156950564