Migrant rules official English go to ballot
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 22, 2006
Matthew Benson and Carrie Watters
Legislature tries end run around governor's vetoes
The Arizona Legislature on Wednesday sent measures to the November ballot that
will ask voters to make English the state's official language and prevent
undocumented immigrants from receiving a variety of state services.
As the session neared its end, lawmakers were on the verge of placing nearly a
dozen referendums on the Nov. 7 ballot.
But just as importantly, they voted against several of the most controversial
measures being considered for the ballot. They decided against referring to the
ballot measures that would have penalized employers who hire undocumented
workers and appeared likely to reject a proposal that would have created
obstacles for communities trying to condemn private property. Ultimately,
several measures did go to the ballot in a flurry of final-day legislative
action that likely set the stage for an equally harried election campaign
season. Once again, immigration dominated discussions.
Immigration measures referred to the ballot will enable voters to:
• Block undocumented immigrants from being awarded punitive damages in lawsuits.
Other proposals would put state subsidies off-limits to migrants, including
child care and adult education as well as in-state tuition rates and state
financial aid for college.
• Prevent local communities from enacting so-called sanctuary policies that bar
area law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration law.
• Amend the Arizona Constitution to make English the official language of
The last-minute measures, especially those affecting children and students
hoping to attend college, drew criticism from Democrats. Rep. Ben Miranda,
D-Phoenix, suggested legislators were "repressing ourselves to the Alabamas
and Mississippis of the 1960s."
"What we are doing here today is wrong," added Rep. Kyrsten Sinema,
D-Phoenix. "We are hurting our own state. We are hurting our own community."
The ballot measures amount to an election-year end run around the veto stamp
of Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Sen. Dean Martin conceded as much. The Phoenix Republican called the ballot
a last option for legislation on immigration and other issues already vetoed
by the Democratic governor.
"That's why you're seeing it as the last thing on the last day. We've tried
everything else," Martin said. "Going to the ballot is an unfortunate
circumstance. I'm not disappointed in us; we've passed the bills."
Legislators didn't refer to voters a measure that would have expanded the
state's trespassing statute to criminalize undocumented immigrants for their
mere presence in the state. That provision was included in a pair of bills
vetoed by Napolitano this session.
The Legislature also took a pass on sanctions for employers who hire
undocumented immigrants. Rep. Russell Pearce, a leading voice for get-tough
border enforcement, had drafted a measure for the ballot but was unable to
put it to a vote.
Earlier this week, the Mesa Republican called the employer sanctions measure
"the most critical piece of the (immigration) package" and had stern words
for legislators whom he feared might stand in the way of the proposal at
least getting a vote.
"I'll name names," Pearce declared at the time. "These people ought to be
removed from office that refuse to enforce the law."
Besides immigration, lawmakers were considering assorted other issues for
Lawmakers were considering tougher hurdles for communities trying to use
eminent domain to obtain private property.
That measure would allow such private-property owners to seek a jury trial
to determine the worthiness of the government's bid.
Some referendums resembled legislation booted by the governor, but a measure
about the governments right to take private property went much further than
an eminent domain bill she vetoed earlier this month.
The vetoed bill would have narrowed city and municipal governments' ability
to take blighted areas for redevelopment.