State verifies signatures for immigration reform initiative

    6:05 PM, Jul 7, 2010   |    comments
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    Secure Arkansas is just waiting for the Secretary of State to count all 78,000 signatures on its petition for immigration reform, but director Todd Sharp expects a few thousand signatures to be thrown out.

    "Because they're not legible, people sign twice, or not a registered voter and that's standard," says Sharp.

    If that's the case, the group will be given another month to gather enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot in November. It would prevent illegal immigrants from receiving benefits like social security and public scholarships.

    "Under the federal law you have to prove U.S. citizenship. In Arkansas we do not require you to show proof of citizenship before you get benefits," says Sharp.

    Now, there is a federal lawsuit against Arizona's immigration law and UALR Professor Terry Richard with the local group League of United Latin American Citizens or LULAC, says Arkansas could be next.

    "That's a federal issue, that's something the federal government does. States and local municipalities have no business getting involved in that," says Richard.

    Secure Arkansas says it's not targeting Hispanics or a specific race, but LULAC believes it is targeting Hispanics and could start racial profiling.

    "It's another way of saying, let's keep the Mexicans out," says Richard.

    "It doesn't matter if you come here from England; it doesn't matter if you are coming from Canada," says Sharp.

    The economic impact is still a matter of study and debate. A report by the Congressional Budget Office found San Diego County spent $50 million on law enforcement back in 1999 just on illegal immigration.

    Yet, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation found immigrants added $3 billion to Arkansas economy in 2004.

    The Secretary of State has hired an outside accounting firm to count the signatures. It has 30 days to respond to Secure Arkansas and tell them if they have enough signatures.


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