Ariz.-style immigration measure could appear on ballot

December 28, 2011 6:44:45 PM PST
A former chairman of the California Republican Party got the go-ahead on Wednesday for a petition drive to put an Arizona-style immigration measure on the ballot.

The measure is only a short paragraph in length, but if 500,000 Californians sign on, it will be a big deal on the November ballot.

The measure would do away with California's sanctuary cities like San Francisco that don't require police to enforce immigration laws. The measure specifically says local law enforcement will be required to "comply with direction from federal immigration authorities for holding and transferring undocumented immigrants."

The measure would deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, meaning proof of legal residency would be required to get a license, and it would set aside $700 million over 20 years to fight so-called trans-national gangs.

"Based on the text, it's very simple," said Steve Kemp with the Golden Gate Minutemen group. "I think it's a good deal."

Kemp says it's true that the slowdown in the California economy, particularly in the construction industry, has slowed the flow of illegal immigrants into California. But Kemp says that's not the point.

"Just because we don't have any work in the construction trade right now," said Kemp. "There's restaurants, there's hotels, there's a variety of industries...where illegal aliens work there regularly."

But Democratic State senator Mark DeSaulnier suspects the timing of this initiative is tied more to next year's election.

"It's part of what I believe is wrong with the initiative system in California," DeSaulnier said. "It's leveraged for voter turnout from one side or the other."

DeSaulnier believes the backers of the measure are trying to put a hot-button issue on the November ballot that will drive conservatives to vote.

"One would ask the question, what's the real purpose of the law anyways [sic], other than the optics of getting people upset and getting them up to vote for something that really isn't very helpful or legal in the first place," DeSaulnier said.

"The wedge issue might be a small part of it," said Kemp, "but it's not the main part. The main part is that we have to control illegal immigration in the state of California and in the United States of America."

On Wednesday, a co-author of the measure questioned what was wrong with "trying to get people to go to the polls." The question, of course, is which group will be more fired up: Those who support the measure, or those who will be opposed?

Backers have until May 25 to collect 500,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot.


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