Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California, meet Arizona: A proposed SB 1070-style ballot initiative moves forward

Photo by Patrick Dockens/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Last month, I posted a brief list of similarities between Arizona's SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law and a proposed ballot initiative in California that aims to put a closely related law on this state's books.

At the end of September, Tea Party activist Michael Erickson filed a proposal for the "Support Federal Immigration Law Act" with the state attorney general's office in Sacramento. Yesterday, the California secretary of state authorized a signature drive for the initiative.

Erickson, a Bay Area activist who describes himself as a business consultant, drafted the proposed initiative with help from attorneys and worked with veterans of the Proposition 187 campaign, though he did not want to disclose names of individuals or groups he worked with when we spoke.

Like the Arizona law, the California initiative would empower local law enforcement to check the legal status of anyone they suspect could be in the country illegally. However, while the initiative is patterned after SB 1070, Erickson said precautions were taken to avoid some of the rough spots that led to parts of the Arizona law being blocked by a federal judge last July, leading to a pending appeal from the state in federal court. Among the provisions similar to those of SB 1070:

- Local law enforcement officers would be allowed to check for immigration status during “any lawful stop, detention, or arrest” if there is “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally, though with caveats regarding how immigration status should be verified with the federal government in “a timely manner” and another barring race, color or national origin as the sole purpose for a stop.

- There is a provision barring undocumented immigrants from soliciting work in California, though what constitutes a violation has been adapted to “conceal(ing) his or her immigration status while applying for work”

- There is a provision barring law enforcement agencies and local jurisdictions from restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws, i.e. so-called “sanctuary” policies

- Transporting undocumented immigrants would be a state crime, as would be “knowingly or negligently” hiring unauthorized workers

Supporters must now gather 433,971 signatures by April 21, 2011 in order to qualify the initiative for the 2012 ballot.