It's difficult to understand why supporters of Proposition
200 want to lash out even further against illegal immigration. Proposition
200 was the anti-immigrant initiative passed by Arizona voters last
November. The advocates of this measure argued that illegal immigrants were
voting in state elections; the initiative also restricted the state and
local services that would be provided to illegal immigrants.
After it passed, it was not clear exactly what services should be
withheld, so Attorney General Terry Goddard issued an opinion, which said that
illegal immigrants should not receive welfare services.
A bill further banning services to illegal immigrants passed the
House Appropriations Committee Tuesday. Applicants would have to show legal
residency to become an adoptive parent, participate in a literacy program,
receive housing assistance, attend a state college or university or receive
adult education services.
It's not clear to us exactly how Proposition 200 and the current
bill further prohibiting services will affect illegal residents. Undocumented
workers are in this country to work. They typically avoid attracting attention
to themselves. As a result, they do not attempt to vote, to receive housing
assistance, become adoptive parents, seek adult education classes or participate
in literacy programs.
These measures seem to assume that illegal immigrants have come
to the United States to enjoy handouts and special favors. It is an erroneous
But such assumptions are a characteristic of the issue. It is
easier by far to deal with illegal immigration in the abstract. The moment one
puts a human face to immigrants, a different picture emerges. There are stories
of enterprising and successful illegal immigrants who seized the American dream
and found success because they took a chance.
State Rep. Tom Boone, a Glendale Republican, argues that "it's
just not right" for Arizonans to have to pay for services for people who crossed
the border illegally.
We suspect the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants would
agree. When a man or a woman is willing to risk death in the Arizona desert from
a murderous heatstroke, receiving services from the state of Arizona isn't
likely a major concern or even a minor consideration.
Measuring what's right or wrong in illegal immigration can
involve a seemingly endless stream of assumptions and suppositions. Much of the
time - as in the case of those who supported this legislation - they are
Denying services to illegal immigrants is beside the point. More
than half of all illegal immigration occurs on the Mexico-Arizona border. And no
amount of legislation conjured by members of the Arizona Legislature can change
that. This issue is about the search for a better life, and that power is no
match for mere legislators.