Activists in California are pushing for a ballot initiative that would end public benefits for illegal immigrants and terminate welfare payments for their children, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times.
Organizers have kicked-off a drive to gather the 488,000 voter signatures required to qualify the measure for the June 2010 election. It has been a slow start, however, with only $350,000 in the war chest. Typically, statewide initiatives consume about $4 million at the signature-collecting phase.
Supporters of the initiative further want to challenge the citizenship of children born in the United States to parents who are here illegally, San Diego political activist Ted Hilton told the Times.
Hilton argued that the 14th Amendment states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.”
Since illegal residents are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, their offspring should not be citizens, he maintained.
Hilton pointed to estimates that California’s 2.7 million illegal residents account for $4 billion to $6 billion (mostly schools, prison space, and emergency healthcare) of the state’s $105-billion budget.
“Are we going to continue asking taxpayers to pay for these services when the state is completely out of money?” he asked.
The measure would end state welfare to an estimated 48,000 households and 100,000 children -- aid that now costs the state $640 million a year.
Hilton has been beating the drum against illegal immigration for two decades. With regard to the new initiative, his organization, Taxpayer Revolution, has gotten the seal of approval from Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the American Legion California chapter, NumbersUSA, Save Our State, and the California Coalition for Immigration Reform.
The California initiative follows similar measures in Oklahoma, Colorado Virginia, Arizona and Georgia, according to the Times report.
Meanwhile, proponents for the rights of illegal immigrants argue that illegal residents pay taxes -- sales taxes on what they buy, gasoline taxes when they fuel their cars, property taxes if they own homes. The Social Security Administration estimates that in 2007, illegal residents nationwide contributed a net of 12 billion dollars to the system.
Peter Schey, a Los Angeles attorney who successfully challenged Proposition 187, a similar measure, said courts would most likely sink the initiative.
“This proposal . . . has no chance of surviving a constitutional challenge,” he told the Times. “It is plainly driven by racism and a desire to whip up xenophobia during difficult economic times for U.S. citizens.”
Proposition 187 was halted in its tracks when a federal judge ruled that the measure unconstitutionally usurped federal jurisdiction over immigration.
Mike Hethmon, an attorney with the Washington-based Immigration Reform Law Institute, told the Times that the latest measure passes muster under federal authority delegated to the states to restrict access to benefits and verify applicants’ eligibility.
Unlike Proposition 187, the new measure does not attempt to curtail access to education – keeping it square with the 1982 Supreme Court ruling that states could not bar illegal immigrant children from schools.
Some features of the initiative: Would cut off CalWorks payments to the children of citizens or legal residents who fail to meet eligibility requirements for state aid because they are unwilling to work, addicted to drugs or absent. Would require that applicants for birth certificates verify their legal status. Would require that those applicant for birth certificate unable to verify their legal status produce official identification from a foreign government, a record of any publicly funded costs for delivering the child, and other information before receiving their child’s birth certificate, which would be marked with the notation “foreign parent.”
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