Earlier this week the California Secretary of State gave the green light to Republican Michael Erickson to begin gathering signatures for his version of the Arizona immigration law that targets ethnic groups for heightened scrutiny by law enforcement officers. Erickson is the former head of the California Republican Party, current chairman of Republicans for the National Interest and the Support Federal Immigration Law Committee (full bio here). He also appears to be a xenophobic Tea Party bigot cast in the mold of Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce and Kris Kobach.
From the press release:
“Californians are under attack from a growing wave of drug related, gang violence. Now that Arizona courageously has resolved to crack down on the drug cartels in their state, we may presume that the murderous warlords will seek a safe haven in our state,” continued Erickson. “Frankly, under the circumstances, we no longer have the time for the phony political posturing and fence sitting that substitutes for real leadership on this issue.”
Noting that illegal immigration costs the state of California “tens of billions annually in education, health care, and incarceration,” Erickson scolded politicians as not being serious about solving our fiscal crisis when they “refuse to provide anything other than safe, poll driven clichés on this issue.”
It's so easy to make claims like this without substantiation. In fact, California's crime rate has been steadily decreasing, with 2009 seeing a 6.6% drop in violent crime over 2008. That drop isn't an anomaly either. Crime rates in California have been decreasing since 1992 at a steady rate, even as California's population has increased.
In order to get this initiative on the ballot, Erickson will need to gather about 434,000 signatures between now and 2012. He will surely employ the usual professional petition-gatherers, mobilize Tea Party supporters, and rely on conservative strongholds like Orange and Riverside counties to gain traction. As usual, the initiative and surrounding PR campaign have been crafted with some lip service to the exploitation of immigrant workers in order to fool people into signing the petition. Here's an overview:
Initiative supporters must gather at least 433,971 signatures of registered voters by April 21, 2011, to qualify for an election. Erickson said he'd aim to put the measure before voters during the 2012 election cycle.
The effort will rely largely on volunteers from California's Tea Party network, Erickson said.
The California proposal would make it a state crime for undocumented persons to seek work while hiding their immigration status, and a state crime for employers to "intentionally or negligently" hire an illegal immigrant.
The measure would also require all highway patrol, police, sheriff's deputies and other officers to investigate a person's immigration status if they are "reasonably suspicious" that a person who they stopped is in the country illegally.
The difference with Arizona's law, Erickson said, is that officers would have to contact federal immigration authorities and conduct such a check within a "timely manner" and could not hold a person for a long period of time.
Just like the Arizona law, it targets people of color and Latinos in particular, because after all, who would "reasonably suspect" a white person with a Canadian or Australian accent from being here illegally. Right?
There are two ways this can go, assuming he's able to gather the required signatures. If it lands on the 2012 June primary ballot, Erickson and his group are counting on a similar turnout to the 2010 midterms, giving it a greater chance of passage. If it lands on the 2012 general election ballot, chances will diminish for passage because of the higher turnout and more engaged electorate. I think he underestimates the clout of the Latino vote in California.
Let's hope it never makes it to the ballot, but if it does, I predict a solid rejection at the polls..