- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

DENVER — Arizona voters defied their political leadership Tuesday by approving Proposition 200, a measure against illegal immigration, in a move that could fuel similar grass-roots movements across the West.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, Proposition 200 had 56 percent support. The initiative requires voters to show proof of citizenship and those receiving state welfare benefits to present proof of residency or citizenship.

Randy Pullen, chairman of the Yes on 200 committee, predicted yesterday that the victory would inspire similar efforts in other Western states and draw the attention of state and national lawmakers.

“When you have the governor, your senators and your congressional delegation against it, you’re outspent 5-to-1, and you still win … it’s a pretty clear message that people want something done,” Mr. Pullen said.

Before Proposition 200 can take effect, however, it likely will have to pass judicial muster. Steve Roman, spokesman for the No on 200 committee, said yesterday he expects to see a court challenge within 30 days.

Proposition 200 already has overcome a series of obstacles. The measure started more than a year ago as a grass-roots effort by Arizonans fed up with the growing financial and social costs of unchecked immigration from Mexico.

The proposal immediately drew powerful opposition, led by Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, and Sen. John McCain, a Republican, and included the state’s Democratic Party, the congressional delegation and labor unions.

Infighting among the measure’s supporters eventually resulted in a split between the original group, Protect Arizona Now, and Yes on 200.

The No on 200 committee spent more than $1 million to campaign against the measure, arguing instead for “real immigration reform.” Television and radio ads said Proposition 200 would cost the state millions of dollars to implement, and warned that the initiative could require Arizonans to produce proof of citizenship before receiving police and fire service.

The pro-200 forces denied these charges but ran no television spots. It didn’t matter. Support for the measure ran as high as 75 percent and never dropped below a majority.

Bruce Merrill, who conducted polling on the measure at Arizona State University, said voter anger over illegal immigration propelled the measure to victory.

“The issue became a symbolic way to take out frustration on illegal immigration in the Southwest,” Mr. Merrill said. “I think Arizonans are frustrated that the feds don’t do anything about it, the state doesn’t do anything about it, so this was a way to send a message.”

Miss Napolitano said yesterday that she would abide by the will of Arizonans, said her spokeswoman, Jeanine L’Ecuyer.

“She’s disappointed, but not surprised,” Miss L’Ecuyer said. “Her job is to implement the law as passed by the voters.”

The measure drew comparisons to California’s Proposition 187, which passed handily in 1994, although courts later struck down some provisions. Democrats said the measure’s chief contribution was to invigorate Hispanic political participation, which later resulted in devastating losses for the state Republican Party.

Mr. Merrill warned that Proposition 200 could produce a similar scenario.

“The strategy in Arizona with the Hispanic population is to let sleeping dogs lie,” he said. “If you’re a conservative, religious-right voter, you don’t want them to vote.”

At the same time, he said, his pre-election polling found that 40 percent of Hispanics favored the measure.

Other states, including California and Colorado, are launching similar initiatives for the next election, Mr. Pullen said.

“This is a start,” he said. “We just want to see it keep moving forward.”

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