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Activist wants AZ-style immigrant law in Cal

November 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
California may get tougher on illegal immigration with a new law just like the one in Arizona. That state's law prompted protests and boycotts. So should California follow Arizona's lead? The decision soon could be up to California voters.A "tea party" activist has been given the OK to start collecting signatures for his initiative that would require law enforcement to investigate the immigration status of anyone they lawfully stop and suspect may be in the country illegally.

"Illegal immigration is the slavery of the 21st century," said Michael Erickson, Support Federal Immigration Law Committee.

There are some slight differences, but Michael Erickson modeled the California proposal after the Arizona law. He hopes to prevent any crime from spilling over state lines in case the Arizona law survives its legal challenges.

"We were concerned the really violent drug cartels, the human smugglers, the gangs, that these criminal elements would move their operations from Arizona into California," said Erickson.

Latino-rights activists don't believe California voters will go for the initiative.

"There's a lot of racism and xenophobia that relates to how people perceive the immigration issue. So we're just going to have to fight it like we did in Arizona," said Al Rojas, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

Still, illegal immigrants in California are nervous. Many didn't let Eyewitness News show their faces or give their full names, but they feel the current anti-immigrant climate could push the initiative through and open the door to deportation.

"We are people that are contributing to this country," said "Mario," an illegal immigrant. "They don't know how much they are hurting not only the people that are here, but the families in our countries that we're helping."

In reviewing the measure, the state's legislative analyst and finance director said the initiative could potentially save California a significant amount of money from government services the state wouldn't have to provide illegal immigrants anymore.

But they also note the measure could lead to higher costs in the criminal justice system because the illegal immigrants would have to be arrested, imprisoned and prosecuted.

Proponents have until April 21 to gather the 434,000 signatures needed to qualify for the 2012 ballot.

Proponents of the anti-illegal immigration initiative have until April 21 to gather the 434,000 signatures needed to qualify for the 2012 ballot.


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