BELMONT -- A Republican activist is raising signatures to place an Arizona-style immigration law on the California ballot in 2012.
The proposition would require all state and local police officers to investigate the immigration status of those they stop if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally. It would make it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work while concealing their immigration status. In addition, it would make it a state crime for an employer to hire an undocumented immigrant, whether the hiring happens intentionally or negligently.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Tuesday that the proponent, Michael Erickson, could begin collecting signatures. He must collect the signatures of 433,971 voters by April 21 in order for the initiative to qualify for the 2012 ballot.
Erickson, a Belmont resident, calls the measure the Support Federal Immigration Law Initiative. The proposition would outlaw sanctuary city policies and allow residents to sue any state official or agency for as much as $5,000 per day if their policies restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws. It also would require all employers in the state to use E-Verify, which checks the eligibility of workers through a federal database.
"Since we're never going to get something like this passed through the Democrat-controlled Legislature, it's going to be we the people who are going to make it happen," he said at a Bay Area tea party rally recently, according to a video of the rally at the initiative's website.
Erickson said in an interview that he took the text of Arizona's law, SB 1070, and applied it to California's penal code, and also strengthened the language to overcome likely constitutional challenges. The Department of Justice sued over Arizona's law this summer, causing a judge to strike down its most controversial provisions. The Arizona law is now being argued in a federal appeals court in San Francisco.
"We wanted to write an initiative we feel would have a better chance of passing any legal challenges," Erickson said. "We're complying with federal law, with federal pre-emption."
The 37-year-old recently moved to San Mateo County but has been a political activist in the region for many years and served as the chairman of the Sonoma County Republican Party. He is writing a book about the tea party movement. As a student at Santa Clara University, he was a volunteer on the 1994 campaign to pass Proposition 187, another statewide measure that sought to crack down on illegal immigrants but became tangled in legal challenges.
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