Group pushes for stricter immigration measures in California

November 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Arizona's controversial immigration law may be coming to California. There is an effort underway to crack-down on illegal immigrants in California, in much the same way authorities are doing there.

A Tea Party activist has been given the okay 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.

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 the legal challenges.

We're very concerned that a number of the criminals elements, the really violent drug cartels, human smugglers, the gangs that are disproportionately involved, that these criminal elements would move their operations from Arizona to California," he said.

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," Al Rojas from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement said.

Still, illegal immigrants in California are nervous. Many, who wished to remain anonymous, said the current anti-immigrant climate could push the initiative through and open the door to deportation.

"The police, they stop, looking for papers," illegal immigrant Manuel said. "I don't have papers. I don't have driver's license. I don't have social security."

"We are people that are contributing to this country," illegal immigrant Mario said. "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.


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