June 24, 2004
A coalition of national immigration control groups supporting a proposed Arizona initiative has announced they intend to turn over nearly 100,000 petition signatures on Tuesday to the Protect Arizona Now committee.
That move would provide enough time for Protect Arizona Now to combine the petitions with an estimated 30,000 signatures collected by volunteers and submit them to the state election office by a July 1 deadline, said representatives of the coalition.
The national coalition hopes a Tuesday news conference at the state Capitol will mend a split within Protect Arizona Now that threatened the initiative effort.
"I’m committed behind PAN and I have never lost any of my support and enthusiasm for this effort," said Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who has worked with the coalition. "We have one shot at this and we are waiting to the last minute to collect as many signatures as we can."
The planned handover will come nearly a week after a state judge ordered one coalition representative to give all petitions to Protect Arizona Now chairwoman Kathy McKee. The new delay outraged McKee, who had hoped to verify most of the signatures.
"Why have they spent $40,000 to $50,000 in legal fees . . . to keep us from getting those signatures?" McKee said.
Protect Arizona Now is promoting an initiative that targets illegal immigrants by requiring confirmation of legal residency before offering public benefits not federally mandated and identification checks before voting.
Despite support from volunteers, the committee has struggled to collect more than 122,000 valid petition signatures to place the initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot. In March, the committee turned to a national group called Federation for American Immigration Reform to raise money for paid petition circulators.