Conservatives Pushing Immigration Initiative

Michael Gardner, Copley News Service, SignOnSanDiego.com, Aug. 3

SACRAMENTO—Moving to capitalize on lingering resentment over legislative efforts to grant driver licenses to undocumented aliens, conservative Republicans plan to launch a broad initiative campaign aimed at barring those here illegally from collecting welfare, college scholarships or food stamps.

“We have to stop the incentives for coming here illegally. This is the only way to do it. The Legislature cannot be trusted,” said Mike Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly, a conservative grass-roots wing of the GOP.

The initiative is a narrowed version of the polarizing Proposition 187 approved by voters in 1994, 59 percent to 41 percent. But the courts and later mediation invalidated much of it, allowing children of illegal immigrants to attend school and receive medical care.

Spence said the new initiative would exempt those services required by the courts.

If approved by voters, the initiative would bar undocumented immigrants from collecting retirement, welfare, unemployment or disability checks. They would not qualify for housing subsidies or food stamps. And they would no longer be eligible for cheaper in-state college tuition or receive loans and scholarships.

The initiative also would pre-empt future legislation allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver licenses. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, are negotiating a compromise measure, but no deal has been struck.

“This is a time for us to bring our country together and look for ways to build unity, not division,” Cedillo said, responding to the initiative.

“Immigrants are not here for services. They’re here to work,” he said.

Spence countered that the state is broke and cannot afford to provide services to those who crossed the border illegally.

“It’s more than the drivers’ license,” Spence said. “We’re running deficits.”

Spence is expected to be joined by Assemblyman Mark Wyland, R-Del Mar, in unveiling the initiative today in Sacramento.

They need about 600,000 signatures of registered voters to put the matter on the ballot. Their target is the March 2006 primary.

Spence’s grass-roots group has proven it has the capability to follow through. It collected more than enough signatures on a referendum to overturn a driver license bill signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis. The campaign peeled back after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s historic election and his repeal of that law soon after the recall.

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