Leaders criticize campaign
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 24, 2004

Elvia Díaz
A day after Proposition 200 became law, Arizona's most influential Latinos were blaming each other for the failure to stop the immigration measure and are urging immigrants to be wary of anyone asking them for money to continue the court battle.

Some Latino leaders are questioning efforts already under way asking immigrants to donate $1 each to continue the fight against Proposition 200. A federal judge allowed it to become law on Wednesday.

Among other things, the law calls for state and local government workers to report suspected undocumented immigrants seeking public benefits.

Top Latinos said Thursday they now feel more could have been done to defeat the measure at the ballot box.

Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, blasted the election campaign against Proposition 200, saying a big failure was not to involve Latinos in general and immigrants in particular.

"It's important to recognize that the campaign against Prop. 200 was poorly run," Miranda said. "It was poorly run because we were scared that we were going to be looked upon as people out there waving the Mexican flag."

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a top Latina and one of the initial opponents of the measure, said the criticism is only a reflection of defeat.

"There is frustration because we lost," Wilcox said. "There are different opinions about what we should have been done."

Miranda, who believes that part of the problem was not involving immigrants in the campaign, is organizing a new coalition designed to attract immigrants, church officials, students and others outside the Latino political establishment. The idea, he said, is to inform people about Proposition 200 and other matters such as proposed state legislation targeting undocumented immigrants. The group is planning to convene next month to discuss specific strategies.

The first step, Miranda said, is to try to minimize the fear among undocumented immigrants by communicating with them and inviting them to get involved.

Nayeli Bueno, a student at Phoenix College and a member of the new coalition, said the new law won't stop immigrants like her from pursuing a better life here.

"We came to this country with a dream," she said. "We're going to fight and we will not give up."

And while the immediate implementation of the measure has been limited to a handful of programs, immigrants are still fearful and thus are vulnerable to possible scams, some leaders said.

Speaking at a popular Spanish-language radio station on Thursday, former state lawmakers Alfredo Gutierrez cautioned immigrants against donating money to anyone except to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which filed the federal lawsuit challenging the measure's

"That's the only check you ought to write," Gutierrez said later in a interview with The Arizona Republic, cautioning that a Phoenix group is asking each immigrant to donate a $1 to fight the measure.

"Don't give money to anybody except to MALDEF," said Gutierrez, noting the group would need at least $250,000 to cover the cost of expected court appeals to Wednesday's ruling and other future litigation over the measure.

Elias Bermudez, executive director of Centro de Ayuda, a Phoenix non-profit agency that advocates on behalf of immigrants, confirmed a new group under his auspices indeed is asking for $1 donations. But Bermudez balked at any suggestion of impropriety, saying any money collected will be used in part to help with the continued legal battle and to keep up a phone line set up to take complains, and answer questions, from Spanish-speaking callers about Proposition 200.