Arizona's Immigration Signal

Ballot initiatives often reflect the public's frustration with elected leaders for a job not done, or one done badly.

So it was that Californians passed state funding for stem-cell research that far exceeds such US public spending, and voters in Florida and Nevada hiked the state minimum wage by $1 more than the federal level.

But the voter blowback most likely to reach Washington is Arizonans' approval of a Nov. 2 ballot measure targeting illegal immigration.

Stricter border controls in California and Texas have funneled illegal aliens to Arizona and its inhospitable desert and mountains, which immigration officials hoped would discourage crossings. That hasn't happened, and now Arizona is where the most Mexicans enter the country illegally.

Understandably, voters there easily passed Proposition 200, which requires proof of citizenship for voter registration, and proof of immigrant status to receive state and local benefits that aren't federally mandated.

But Prop. 200's prescription is impractical on many points. While aiming to reduce the cost of illegal immigrants to the state, it unwisely punishes with fines or jail time state employees who don't report immigration violations, and burdens them with ID verification, among other things.

More important, it probably won't stem the flow of illegals. If the possibility of dying in the desert won't stop an alien, a bureaucrat or piece of paper certainly won't.

Congress responded to a somewhat similar 1996 ballot initiative in California (much of which was invalidated by the courts) by restricting access to certain federal help. That, too, has not stemmed the flow.

The cry for better border control as heard from Arizona (and other states), as well as keeping out terrorists, requires more substantial immigration reform.

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