Arizona defeats anti-immigrant measure, rights referendum fails in Florida

Voters in two US states Tuesday Nov. 4 defeated immigration-related ballot measures. In Arizona, Proposition 202 would have revoked the business licenses of employers that knowingly hire undocmented immigrants and would have strengthened penalties for identity theft. But in Florida, a referendum intended to protect immigrant rights went down to defeat. Amendment No. 1 would have changed the state constitution, deleting a provision allowing lawmakers to prohibit ownership of real property by undocumented immigrants. The Florida Legislature had never exercised its authority under the 1926 provision, enacted as a measure against Asian Americans.

Voters in two other states split on ballot measures that would affect many immigrants by requiring the use of the English language in official settings. In Missouri, a referendum that passed overwhelmingly will establish English as the official state language, to be used at “all governmental meetings at which any public business is discussed, decided, or public policy is formulated.” In Oregon, voters apparently defeated an initiative that would have prohibited public school students from being taught in a language other than English for more than two years. (Jurist, NYT, Nov. 5)

See our last post on the politics of immigration.

  1. WW4 Report has written a misleading article
    WW4 Report has written a misleading article for at least 2 reasons.

    Prop 202 in Arizona was opposed by pro-enforcement immigration groups. Prop 202 was promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and other groups and would have removed critical enforcement measures like mandatory use of E-Verify. The headline “Arizona defeats anti-immigrant measure” is incorrect in that the defeated referendum would have gutted existing immigration enforcement measures.

    Amendment 1 in Florida was essentially an exercise in political correctness to remove unused language dealing with alien property ownership and did not protect “immigrant rights.” See for more information on Amendment 1.

    1. Thanks for the good news
      There does seem to be some ambiguity as to why the Arizona initiative was defeated, although the “pro-enforcement” crowd seems to have been divided on it. It seems it was a compromise measure that stiffened penalties on employers, while also loosening standards for what constitutes “knowingly” hiring undocumented immigrants. From of Phoenix, Nov. 5:

      But backers of Proposition 202 billed the measure as getting tough on companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers.

      They cited provisions which allow the criminal prosecution of employers who purposely take false IDs. “It’s disappointing,” said pro-202 spokesman Garrick Taylor. But Taylor said he did not know whether voters rejected the measure because they did not buy the claim that the initiative actually would tighten up laws against illegal immigration.

      Opponents noted, though, that many of the elements of the initiative would make it more difficult to prosecute employers than under the current law, including a requirement to show the company had “actual knowledge” the employee was in this country illegally.

      So perhaps the “no” vote was split between those who support immigrants’ rights and those who felt the proposed law was too weak.

      A Nov. 3 letter to the Arizona Republic protesting the paper’s no-on-202 stance argued that it would have “closed loopholes” in the existing law. That law was passed by the state legislature last year, and was greeted with glee by Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his posse. The Republic reported Oct. 27 that Gov. Janet Napolitano, who signed the 2007 sanctions bill, didn’t take a position on Proposition 202 (also known as the Stop Illegal Hiring Act). And that, contrary to the commenter’s assertion, neither did the state Chamber of Commerce.

      As for the Florida initiative, the New York Times Nov. 6, after the defeat, provides a rather different perspective from the commentor’s:

      Immigrant advocates said they were stunned.

      “It’s terribly disappointing,” said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. “At a time when our country has turned away from a history of racism, we have left a racist and anti-immigrant provision in Florida’s Constitution.”

      Ms. Little and others who supported removing the provision said that a mix of confusion and prejudice seemed to have led to defeat.

      The language before voters did not explain that the laws first appeared around 1913 during a public panic that Asian immigrants, mostly from Japan, would work on farms for less than Americans and buy up vast tracts of land. It failed to spell out that state provisions were intended to work hand-in-glove with discriminatory federal laws that prevented Asian-Americans from becoming naturalized citizens until 1952.

      Rather the ballot simply asked voters if they were willing to delete “provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.”

      Steve Geller, a former state senator who worked to get the initiative on the ballot, said Florida election rules only allowed a description of 75 words, and required that the language of the old provision — “aliens ineligible for citizenship” — be included. As a result, he said, “a lot of people thought it had to do with illegal aliens, and it had nothing to do with illegal aliens.”

      In fact, some organizations opposing illegal immigration latched onto the provision and advised people to vote no.

      On the Web site of one group, Americans for Legal Immigration, a member wrote that it should be left standing because “‘illegal aliens’ should not have ‘rights’ like U.S. citizens have. The only right they should have is deportation!”