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Enforcing our Borders, State by State By: Mark Landsbaum
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 03, 2005

To get a driver’s license or social security card, foreigners must present their visas. Illegal aliens need not apply. To vote, everyone must show proof of citizenship. In addition, more than 201,000 foreigners were deported last year, and another 9,000 were denied entry at airports and the border. Is this more U.S. antagonism to immigrants? Is this racist discrimination? Perhaps it’s another example of American xenophobia? Not quite. It’s how Mexico deals with illegal immigrants. But apparently what’s good for Mexico isn’t good for the United States, at least to hear Mexicans and left-leaning Americans tell it.

A substantial majority of Arizona voters approved Proposition 200 in the November 2 election, imposing requirements and restrictions similar to Mexico’s on illegal immigrants, who have flooded across the Mexican border into that state, avoiding border patrol crackdowns in Texas and California.


Incredibly, Arizona is the first U.S. state to require proof of citizenship to vote. In an effort to stem voting fraud and to restrict public benefits to legal residents, 56 percent of Arizonans endorsed Proposition 200. Last week the U.S. Justice Department gave Arizona the green light to enforce its new law, a federal approval required because of past voter discrimination practices.


The U.S. Border Patrol says 586,000 illegal aliens were caught trying to enter the United States through Arizona alone in the year ending last Sept. 30, an increase of 175,000 over the previous year. There are an estimated 22 million illegal aliens already in the United States.


Response to the new law has been predictable from the usual suspects on the left, from so-called “civil rights” groups and perhaps most ironic, from government representatives of Mexico.


“This law provokes a xenophobic attitude, a discriminatory attitude,” said Eliana Garcia Laguna, a member of Mexico’s Democratic Revolutionary Party. “It is very bad for the Mexico-U.S. relationship.”

Geronimo Gutiérrez, Mexico’s undersecretary for North American affairs, likewise complained that, “Measures such as Proposition 200 in Arizona will not help address the unresolved situation of undocumented workers who are demanded by the U.S. economy. Moreover, we are aware of concerns that its implementation could lead to acts of discrimination based on ethnic profiling.”


The temerity of Arizona to enact laws restricting voting to citizens who can prove their citizenship and limiting public benefits to legal resident has so enraged Mexican officials that they already are threatening to complain to the United Nations, or the Organization of American States, if they don’t get satisfaction in U.S. courts. So far, one U.S. federal district court judge has found nothing offensive in the law, although opponents have appealed that ruling to the notoriously left-wing 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.


Proposition 200 “went into effect in Arizona to legalize racist and xenophobic actions,” complained columnist Victor Manuel Barceló in the Mexican newspaper Tabasco Hoy. “If we are unable to bring to bear international law…to stop the aggression in Arizona, there are similar bills, in several Southern states of the empire [that’s how he refers to the U.S. – eds.]  that could ‘feel the tickle’ to pass them.”


Barceló may be right. Already similar legislation has been introduced in Arkansas, and more may be on the way.


“We’ve been contacted by people in every state except for Hawaii…saying, ‘How do we do this,’” said Kathy McKee, who led Protect Arizona Now to put Proposition 200 on the ballot. “They wanted to see how the post-election challenge went. When it went according to plan and didn’t drag on forever…they said, ‘OK, let’s get busy.’”


Californians overwhelmingly endorsed a similar initiative in 1994, but Proposition 187 was ruled unconstitutional when opponents challenged it. The state did not appeal. The court’s reversal of the popular will in California seemed to dampen anti-illegal immigration campaigns for a while. But Proposition 200 supporters believe that effect has worn off, in part because of soaring illegal immigration, and its increasing burden on taxpayers, as well as its threat to election integrity.


The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national anti-illegal immigration group that financially supported the Proposition 200 campaign, is working with about three dozen highly mobilized grassroots organizations to spread FAIR’s three-pronged vision, which opposes illegal alien amnesty, a guest-worker program and illegal immigration. The widespread interest suggests growing public disapproval with illegal immigration.


“We have become a Third World dumping ground,” said Protect Arkansas Now’s Joe McCutchen, of Fort Smith, who hopes to replicate Arizona’s success in his state. “It’s just madness. I’m hoping that we can wake up Americans to defend our sovereignty, the Constitution and save this Republic from this massive invasion.”


As illegal immigration has increased, states that previously had low Hispanic populations, such as Arkansas, Colorado and Georgia, are feeling the effects. McCutchen, who is backing the legislative effort of Arkansas Senator Jim Holt to deny benefits for and prohibit voting by non-citizens, makes this case for state-level action: “It’s obvious the president has no intention to secure the borders, and I think this is by design.”


Protect Arkansas Now follows the lead of McKee, the self-described Quaker Sunday School teacher, who advanced Proposition 200. Arizona’s new law requires those registering to vote to prove their citizenship, then show identification when they cast their votes. It also denies some state benefits to illegal aliens. Proposition 200 backers are seeking in court a wider definition of the welfare benefits that come under the law’s provisions. A legal opinion by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard limited the definition, but backers of the measure hope to have included public housing, food assistance, and employment benefits, among others.


Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Senator John McCain, most of Arizona’s congressional delegation, many state officials, and immigrant advocacy groups opposed the ballot measure last fall, although the campaign was low-profile and played down even by the local press, perhaps hoping not to draw too much attention to a clearly popular cause. Once Proposition 200 passed, however, there was a firestorm of criticism.

Proposition 200’s success bred not only vocal opposition, but also much sympathetic interest, which is what its critics seem to fear most. Twenty-three states permit citizen initiatives like Arizona’s, but some of the campaigns to mimic the anti-voter fraud measure promise to be fought in state legislative houses, as in Arkansas.


Prominent among Proposition 200 opponents have been the leftist immigrant and so-called “civil rights” groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), which sued to try to stop the Arizona initiative, and has filed an appeal to block the benefits provisions.


MALDEF is an organization -- largely funded and created by the Ford Foundation -- known for promoting drivers licenses for illegals, free or reduced college tuition for illegal immigrants, lowering educational standards to accommodate Hispanics, and advocating the right of criminals to vote in U.S. elections. All such measures undermine national security. MALDEF asked the Justice Department not to approve the voter identification measures, arguing that Proposition 200 is discriminatory, since Hispanics and other minorities are less likely to have required identification. However, all that is required to prove citizenship is a birth certificate or naturalization papers, and records of both are easily obtained.


Proposition 200 opponents also are fearful that the new law’s requirement to submit photocopies of documentation with each voter registration form could retard voter registration drives, resulting in fewer minorities voting. However, nothing in the law prohibits anyone from voting, who is legally entitled to vote, a fact Proposition 200 opponents seem to ignore.


In effect Arizonans have gone Mexico one better. While Mexican law restricts voting to citizens and public benefits to persons legally entitled to them, that nation has no requirement for government officials to report undocumented migrants trying to get around the system, or to punish them when they don’t comply. Proposition 200 does. Unlike Mexico, Arizona, it seems, regards the law as something to be enforced.


Proposition 200 requires state and local employees to report undocumented migrants, and carries a penalty of up to four months in jail and a $750 fine if officials don’t comply.


That may be what irks Mexicans most, at least judging by the reaction of Mexican legislator, Garcia Laguna.

“This hunt for illegals is the most troubling part,” she said. “This law could lead to all kinds of discrimination against our countrymen. And our greatest fear is that it will be copied in other states.”


What the law is certain to lead to is discrimination against lawbreakers. And McKee, McCutchen, Holt, and Protect America Now are hoping it indeed is copied in other states.


Meanwhile, Arizona officials are working to implement the identification requirements of the law in time for the local March 3 elections. Another measure of Proposition 200’s influence may be Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-WI, chairman of the House judiciary committee, calling for national legislation to bar illegal immigrants from getting driver’s licenses.


Protecting America’s elections from fraud and her borders from illegals is catching on. And the Left is getting nervous.

Mark Landsbaum is a freelance writer, author and former award-winning Los Angeles Times reporter in Diamond Bar, California.

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