Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/1013latino13.html

Forum focuses on Latino issues
Associated Press
Oct. 13, 2003

MESA , AZ- Community members should speak out in unison against a state initiative that targets undocumented immigrants and against questionable police actions and negative stereotyping of Hispanics, said speakers at the 2003 Latino Town Hall.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and political activist Alfredo Gutierrez spoke Saturday to an audience of about 250.

Gutierrez, a former state legislator, condemned the Protect Arizona Now initiative, a measure that would deny non-federally mandated government services to undocumented immigrants and require people to show proof of citizenship to vote.

Supporters say the initiative is an attempt to protect citizens from fiscal and social costs of illegal immigration.

But the initiative would cost millions of dollars to implement and would offer no practical value, Gutierrez said. Arguments that the measure would save taxpayers money are false, as undocumented immigrants are denied most public services, he said.

The few services undocumented immigrants can get are protected by federal law.

Opponents argue the proposal is really aimed at keeping Hispanics from voting by erecting procedural barriers.

"The initiative is rabidly anti-immigrant," Gutierrez said. "They're doing it to humiliate, to denigrate the Hispanic community."

Goddard told the audience that open debate about police actions could help bring community confidence to the police department.

From August to September, at least six Mesa police officers were involved in shootings, including two fatal ones. Audience members also discussed issues affecting Hispanics. Kindergarten teacher Gabriela Humes said she has been criticized by parents of English-speaking children for using Spanish in the classroom to help some Hispanic students understand.

"Do you want your child to learn? So does this child's parent," she said she tells them.