Proposition 200 worries diminish holiday joy for immigrant moms
November 23, 2004

Ernesto Portillo Jr.
Thanksgiving came a few days early for some mothers of Mission View Elementary School students, who gathered in a meeting room Monday to swap stories and get a head start on the holiday eating.
But the tasty turkey and the trimmings the women prepared couldn't hide the distasteful uncertainty felt by the women three weeks after the passage of Proposition 200.
How will Proposition 200 affect their children? Is health care still available to them? If someone demands proof of citizenship, what should do they do?
Who can answer their questions? Few people, who can give only conditional answers.
The confusion is understandable.
Proposition 200 is not yet law, but it will be soon. And even when it is declared to be in effect, legal challenges may result in either broadening its scope or tossing it out as illegal.
Until the legal status of Proposition 200 is determined, many Tucsonans remain unsure of its ramifications.
But it's Latino immigrant families, such as the Mission View mothers, who are the most unsure - even those who are here legally. They have little reliable information, and rumors swirl around premature enforcement of Proposition 200.
I did not come here to ask the women about their legal status - only to talk about the uncertainty that awaits them under Proposition 200. And there's plenty of uncertainty. About the only thing they are sure of is that it's not what its supporters said it would be.
Proposition 200 will require proof of citizenship when registering to vote or applying for nonfederal public benefits. It will subject public employees to criminal action for failing to report undocumented immigrants.
That may not sound prejudicial to some, but the mothers at Mission View know otherwise.
If you don't believe them, believe Randy Pullen of Phoenix, chairman of the Yes on 200 Committee. He and his Washington, D.C., moneybag supporters last week filed a legal challenge to seek a broad interpretation of the meaning of public benefits in Proposition 200. They want it applied to a wide swath of government services.
State Attorney General Terry Goddard issued an opinion that said Proposition 200 applies to welfare programs funded in whole or in part with federal money. Nothing more, said the state.
Still, the mothers at Mission View, on South Eighth Avenue in South Tucson, are skeptical.
"That's what they say now, but we do not know for sure," said Manuela Mendoza, a mother of four children.
One of their major concerns is how Proposition 200 will affect children born here legally to parents who are undocumented.
"What will we do?" asked mom Josefina Cuevas.
A concern after the Nov. 2 election centered on schooling.
Marcela Mejía, mother of an 8-year-old, said her child was afraid that passage of Proposition 200 would result in the deportation of Mission View children. But the school's principal assured families that the proposition would not bar their children from attending school, Mejía said.
Proposition 200 created deep fear in Tucson's Latino immigrant community.
But some schools, churches and organizations are working to eradicate the fear and provide information.
Organizers with the Pima County Interfaith Coalition are listening and talking to immigrant families.
The group also is developing ways for immigrant families to fight illegal and overzealous application of Proposition 200.
The mothers of Mission View know questions will abound, even when Proposition 200's validity is settled in the courts. But that's nothing new to them: The lives of immigrant families are always full of uncertainty.
● Ernesto Portillo Jr.'s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Reach him at 573-4242 or at He appears on "Arizona Illustrated," KUAT-TV, Channel 6, at 6:30 p.m. and midnight Fridays.