- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 23, 2004

DENVER — Organizers of the Save Colorado Now initiative, aimed at restricting state services for illegal immigrants, say they will push back their effort to win a place on this fall’s ballot to November 2006.

William Herron, who heads Save Colorado Now, said Friday the campaign ran out of time to gather the required 68,000 signatures by Aug. 2 after being confronted with a series of procedural and legal challenges.

The proposed initiative’s language ultimately was approved by both the state title board and the Colorado Supreme Court, but the measure’s opponents won the war by chewing up valuable time from the campaign’s schedule.

“The wording of this initiative was approved by the Initiative Title Setting Review Board on March 3, 2004, but opponents held it up in appeals for over nine weeks,” Mr. Herron said. “We have nearly 500 volunteers ready to circulate petitions, but by January 2006 we will have 2,500 [volunteers].”

A similar California initiative, Save Our State, pulled out of contention last month after failing to gather enough petitions by its deadline. The Colorado move leaves Arizona as the only state with a viable initiative, Protect Arizona Now, which is gathering signatures for the November ballot.

The Arizona measure needs about 122,000 signatures by July 1 to win a spot on the November ballot. Organizers estimate they have about 80,000 so far.

All three were known as Sons of 187, a reference to Proposition 187, the 1994 California initiative that would have banned illegal immigrants from receiving public services. The measure was approved by voters, but was later struck down in court.

Polly Baca, a member of the Colorado opposition group Keep Colorado Safe, said she was “delighted” by the campaign’s announcement.

“It’s great news,” said Mrs. Baca, who heads LARASA, the Latin American Relief and Service Association. “This would have placed our state in grave danger in terms of both the physical health of residents and public safety.”

By limiting illegal aliens’ access to public health care, she argued, the measure would have promoted the spread of infectious diseases, such as bronchitis and tuberculosis. The measure also would have pushed undocumented workers further underground, leaving the state with no way to keep track of them, she said.

Organizers of Save Colorado Now argued that the measure would discourage illegal immigration by making the state less attractive to such immigrants, who come not only for jobs, but also for the free educational, health and welfare benefits.

Mr. Herron said he also hoped the two-year delay would give the state legislature an opportunity to act.

“Why should we be cutting education, law-enforcement and health programs when untold millions are being spent on services to people who are violating the law?” he asked. “If the legislature doesn’t take corrective action, we will definitely move forward in 2006.”

In the meantime, he encouraged the proposal’s volunteers to work on another proposed ballot measure, known as Hire American Citizens. Now in the signature-gathering phase, the proposal would require the Colorado state government to enter contracts only with companies that hire employees who are citizens or legal residents, not undocumented workers.

Estimates put the illegal-alien population in Colorado at about 144,000, although Mr. Herron said the actual number is closer to 250,000. The number of illegal immigrants is estimated between 8 million and 12 million nationwide.

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