Is Arizona the Next Recall State?

One of the underreported stories to come out of the California recall election was the fact that Gray Davis' signing of the illegal alien driver's license bill actually mobilized votes against him.

A poll commissioned by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (search) and conducted by Luntz Research showed that nearly one-third of those who voted in last Tuesday’s recall said they were influenced to vote for Gov. Gray Davis’ removal by his decision to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens (search). Thirty percent of voters said that Davis’ approval of the driver’s license bill influenced them to support his recall, while only 8 percent said it made them more likely to oppose removing him from office.

Though the proposed California law, now consigned to the trash can with the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, was arguably the least safe driver's license law in the country, other governors spoke admiringly of the law -- albeit before the votes in California had been counted.

In September, Janet Napolitano, governor of Arizona (search), said that if the state's Legislature presented her with a bill identical to the California bill, she would sign it. That is to say, if she were to be presented a bill that stripped identification requirements to use of an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, she would let it become law. Arizona is one of several states that are being driven into bankruptcy in large part by unreimbursed medical costs, as well as other forms of public assistance, associated with the treatment of illegal aliens 

Proponents of laws that would give driver's licenses to illegal aliens usually sum up their arguments like this: "Illegal aliens are driving without licenses right now, so let's test them and grant those who pass the road test a driver's license."

Does this mean that those illegal aliens who don't pass the road test will suddenly stop driving? Of course it doesn't. Such laws don't change anything except the number of votes the executives who sign them believe they can garner at the next election.

On Sept. 9, roughly a month before Californians voted overwhelmingly for a candidate who campaigned on stopping an illegal alien driver's license law, Napolitano spokeswoman Pati Urias said that the governor supports the California measure that had been signed into law by Gray Davis earlier that week.

Arizona is by no means the only state that has a law that allows illegal aliens to drive, but it is the only state that is deliberately trending in that direction. Gov. Napolitano's effort is just as transparently political as Davis' was. But Gov. Napolitano is demonstrably invulnerable to facts. She recently refused to sign a bill that would curb voting by illegal aliens by requiring photo identification to vote. When doing so, she stated that she knew of not one instance in which an Arizona election was affected by votes of non-citizens, though only two years ago an Arizona politician and her campaign manager were arrested for voting prior to becoming citizens. So while Gray Davis' political career was ended in large part by a law allowing illegal aliens to drive, Janet Napolitano looks at such a law as a safe bet.

Arizonans have begun to organize against Gov. Napolitano. An estimated 78 percent of Arizonans want hospitals and polling places to demand proof of legal residency before medical treatment or voting takes place, with between 82 percent and 96 percent of Republicans in favor of such a measure. Amazingly, Arizona’s entire congressional delegation and both of its senators have come out against such a measure. Their logic, as Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., (search) recently related on The O’Reilly Factor, is that because control of immigration is solely within the jurisdiction of the federal government, Arizona should do nothing and hope that Washington, D.C., and Mexico City work the problem out. Meanwhile, the costs of Arizona’s Medicare (search) program have risen from an estimated $200 million for 2001 to $1.2 billion for 2003.

A November 2004 ballot measure that would require Arizona medical facilities and polling places to demand proof of residency is now underway.

Gov. Napolitano may have more at stake than she presently believes. Arizona is a recall state.

Matt Hayes began practicing immigration law shortly after graduating from Pace University School of Law in 1994, representing new immigrants in civil and criminal matters. He is the author of The New Immigration Law and Practice, to be published in October.

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