That's one reason the League of Arizona Cities and Towns recently filed a petition with the Arizona Supreme Court, arguing that the law violated the state's Constitution. They made a strong case, as the Constitution contains a prohibition against legislative logrolling. In other words, jamming disparate pieces of legislation into a bill — in this case, an appropriations bill — that has nothing to do with the intent of the prospective law. There were other parts of the legislation dealing with development fees and building codes to which the League also objected.

A petition prepared by attorneys for the firm Osborn Maledon asked the state Supremes to grant a stay based on the "irreparable harm" HB2008 could cause the League's 90 members. The right to sue "could expose Arizona's cities and towns to innumerable lawsuits over the administration of public benefits."

On December 2, the justices punted, refusing to grant a stay, informing the League it could re-file in a lower court. The League's executive director, Ken Strobeck, told me that his governing board had yet to make a decision on whether to go forward with the lawsuit.

Governor Jan Brewer and other putatively moderate Republicans, such as House Speaker Kirk Adams, decried the League's effort, claiming it wanted to shield illegal immigrants from getting public benefits. Pure poppycock. The League merely wanted to keep its members from getting sued into extinction with frivolous claims.

"The League complies with federal law, or its members do," Osborn Maledon lawyer Tom Hudson told me. "It's really exposing municipal workers to those kinds of lawsuits. So it's very painful from our perspective, with the waste of resources [cities] face in having to defend against those kinds of actions."

The law is harmful in another area, in a way racists like Russell Pearce no doubt enjoy: The fear and uncertainty that Arizona's immigrant community now has to deal with — even when members legally apply for certain public benefits or just show up to an emergency room or stand in line for a flu shot.

Under federal law, ER visits, disaster relief, and similar services do not require proof of legal residency or citizenship. Moreover, American-born children with undocumented parents — U.S. citizens under the Constitution's 14th Amendment — are also eligible for public assistance. The nativists deride such children as "anchor babies," but they are on the wrong side of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. history.

Stephen Meissner, top flack for the Arizona Department of Economic Security, told me that undocumented parents applying for benefits on behalf of their citizen children would not have to provide documents relating to residency status. They need only prove that their kids are U.S. citizens. He also said illegal immigrants have not been able to receive most forms of welfare for quite some time.

"We have been requiring people to demonstrate they are in the country legally for several years now," said Meissner, who added that from the DES' perspective HB2008 would not change much about the way the agency does business.

"If you come to us and you present us with documents that say you're in the country illegally, we're obligated to report you," he said. "If you come to us and determine that you have to prove your citizenship and you simply walk away, we have no evidence that a crime has been committed."

Yet Meissner admitted that the DES, which administers a slew of federal-aid programs, has already reported numerous individuals to its internal Office of Special Investigations and to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, since HB2008 went into effect a few weeks ago. He did not have specific numbers at press time. ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard told me he was unaware of any reports yet being made to ICE. But since the law is new, there could be lag time.

Phoenix civil rights activist Sal Reza complained that HB2008 was merely the latest round in Arizona's war on immigrants. Though the undocumented are legally able to apply for aid on behalf of their children, they are terrified at the idea they may be deported after a visit to the DES or other agencies.

"The law is making civil employees de facto ICE agents," Reza said. "It's worse than making the police ICE agents. Because now you're talking about [reporting] people whose health and livelihood are on the line."

Reza claimed that because of the confusion engendered by the law, hundreds of appointments with state agencies have been canceled by immigrants fearful that they will be reported to ICE. He said he and other activists are advising immigrants to apply for whatever benefits they are legally due, but not to answer questions about immigration status.

"It's really, really bad," stated Reza of the widespread fear in his community. "Right now, [state agencies] have an interpretation of the law, but interpretations can change. The law is there. Terry Goddard could come in and limit it, but I don't think he's going to do what he did with Prop 200."

ARTISTS REVOLT

Art, agit-prop, music, performance are all useful weapons in the ongoing battle against the unjust treatment of Hispanics in Mari-Kafka County, as some wags call it, and Ari-bama in general. Not only does such expression convey defiance, it acts as inspiration for those deeply involved in the immigrant rights movement and those just on the fringes.

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My Voice Nation Help
9 comments
WHITEY
WHITEY

These is no such thing as an economic refugee that is not white is there?All of these white American's sneaking into mexico to get on welfare and free medical care.

In 'fact' the majority on welfare in mexico IS white right?

cisco
cisco

That may be a silly way to evaluate your pastor's sermons or your priest's homilies. Still the larger point remains: The scriptures of Christians and Jews, the Bible, have a lot to say about "resident aliens," "foreigners in your midst," "sojourners and strangers among you." How a society treats strangers, foreigners and resident aliens is arguably a major focus, even preoccupation, of the Bible.

The overall theme of the Bible's teaching is summed up in Exodus 22:21, "You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." Reminding the people of biblical Israel that they had been slaves in Egypt, the Hebrews are enjoined to treat aliens, foreigners and sojourners in their midst fairly and with respect. Leviticus 19:34 echoes and expands upon the Exodus teaching. "The alien who resides among you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God." From the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews we hear, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels unawares."

Why is the matter of the immigrant or the "foreigner who resides among you" such a concern of the Jewish and Christian faiths and what bearing does it have on the current immigration debate in our country? As for the first question, the answer is that God didn't want the ancient Hebrews to forget where they had come from, or how they had gotten where they were, namely, the Promised Land. They had come from slavery in Egypt. They knew what it was like to be exploited and taken advantage of. Now that they had land and wealth they shouldn't forget that hadn't always been the case. Ring any bells? It should. Most Americans are the descendents of immigrants.

sisco
sisco

I think Sheriff Joe will buy some paintings of mine. More murals are coming to a city near you. if you would like to support mural like these. buy some tshirts from me. myspace.com/grafftruth.

sisco
sisco

I think Sheriff Joe will by some paintings of mine. More murals are coming to a city near you. if you would like to support mural like these. buy some tshirts from me. myspace.com/grafftruth.

Auntie Illegal
Auntie Illegal

It is true that illegals can not get benefits, until the female drops that 'anchor'. Now don't use my name and get all nuts. The 14 amendment to our constitution was not intended for illegal aliens and anchor babies and has become a joke. We should be able to back date those birth certificates to last amnesty and deport the rest. My family came from another country, they came legally. they learned the language and never would of dreamt of welfare or disgracing the family by putting their hands out in the worst of times. Illegals are criminals and should learn some really hard lessons about what happens to these criminals. They are criminals... bleeding hearts get on the bus and go back to their countries with them and try and get the freebies there. Good Luck

CadillacDreams
CadillacDreams

Ali, you ignorant slut, go back and read the article. It absolutely mentions U.S. born kids of undocumented parents. They call them "American citizens." Look it up. It's in this little thing called the Constitution. Oh, and they are just as deserving of federal assistance as you are, fucktard.

Jeff
Jeff

Let's not forget Obamas Auntie Zeituni living in subsidized housing. She was ordered deported 7 years ago.

DRC
DRC

So being a nativist, in other words caring about your country, makes you racist? Very simple. When my grandparents came over here after WW2 they did a couple of crazy things. One, did it legally, two, learned English, three became proud Americans and learned what it meant to be American. Culture, customs etc. Although they loved their heritage they loved to be American. I can't say that for all those who wish to stay here. They want the benefits but could care less about being an American. Their loyalty runs elsewhere.

Ali
Ali

The article noticeably ignores the fact that illegal aliens ARE eligible to collect welfare benefits on behalf of their US-born kids, and do. See yesterday's article in the Washington Post, part of a series on Latino children in the US, in which illegal alien parents were doing just that. Benefits that the childen receive such as food and subsidized housing are also used to benefit the entire family and are also benefits we wouldn't be paying if illegal aliens hadn't chosen to act even more irresponsibly in having children here that they can't support.

 

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