Arizona’s anti-immigrant Prop. 200 remains in quagmire! Even though it passed on Nov. 2 with a 56-44 margin, no one seems to know what it will mean to Arizona. Even its sponsors can’t agree. What is abundantly clear is the racist character of its promoters. Most of their funding came from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington, D.C., right-wing foundation.
Confusion started when two separate versions of the initiative petition were circulated to meet the number of signatures required by the state constitution. Two separate ultra-right groups have differing interpretations of the language and intent of the proposition.
Proposition supporters claimed that undocumented immigrants are receiving welfare in Arizona, an issue already covered by state law. A second claim was that non-citizen immigrants are registering to vote. Yet no single instance has been presented that this is the case. Nevertheless the proposition requires submission of proof of citizenship when registering to vote and opens the door for voter intimidation at the ballot box.
Some of the proposition’s backers insist that the proposition’s proof of citizenship requirement also applies to all government programs including driver’s licenses, public libraries and emergency services. State Attorney General Terry Goddard issued an opinion that the intent of the proposition only covers welfare. His statement set in motion an alarmist protest by the promoters of Prop. 200, while others felt it will better withstand a court challenge if interpreted narrowly.
Prop. 200 opponents hope the Federal Elections Commission will throw out the measure because it violates the Voting Rights Act.
For those of us who have spent many decades in the fight for equal rights and the right to vote, one thing is clear. This proposition represents a right-wing, racist movement that is an attempt to return us to the pre-civil-rights-movement era. It’s clear that they have an agenda way beyond the borders of Arizona.
Already groups in several other states are actively working to initiate similar propositions. The strategy is clear — they keep filing these propositions looking for a successful model. If and when they find one, they will all use it, hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court will throw out any challenges.
The reality of life is that Mexican Americans and Latinos still constitute a minority population in most states. In order to sustain the advances we have accomplished thus far, we need to remain united in the interest of the working class. We need to continue to win allies among the labor unions and help them organize the unorganized workers — men and women. As in the past, we need militant organizers and organizations.
There can be no slack and no illusions that racism is a thing of the past. Racism is still alive and massive. Therefore the struggle to organize as a multinational, multiracial working class is still the best path to our continued advancement. Narrow, sectarian approaches will prove disastrous.
In the last couple of decades we’ve been losing some ground on the anti-discrimination front. The call now is for harder work and cohesiveness amongst us and our allies, regardless of race, nationality, gender, religion or non-religion. What do you think?
Lorenzo Torrez is chair of the Communist Party of Arizona. He can be reached at Lptorrez1@wmconnect.com.