Initiative for border police launched
Supporters of a ballot initiative that would create a state police agency to enforce federal immigration laws say they are motivated by the plight of illegal aliens in California.
“They live in the shadows and are exploited,” said Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, author of the California Border Police Initiative during a press conference Feb.11 in front of the Chico City Council chambers to kick off the signature-gathering efforts to qualify the ballot.
Haynes was joined by Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, Chico City Councilman Larry Wahl and Dr. Samuel Wakim, a Yreka dentist, member of the state Republican Party and regional coordinator for the effort.
Haynes said the current state of immigration law enforcement is indefensible.
“I happen to think it is bad for [the illegal immigrants] and for us,” Haynes said. “They say this is motivated by having cheap labor available. That’s just not right.”
The new agency would hire between 2,000 and 3,000 officers along the border and across the state, at a cost of $100,000 per officer or $200 million to $300 million the first year. Savings will amount to $2 billion and $5 billion annually, Haynes said, through costs associated with incarceration, medical treatment and welfare.
Authority for such an agency is established by a section added to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996 by Rep. Chris Cox, R-Newport Beach, allowing state and local governments to enforce federal immigration law.
Haynes rejected a suggestion those behind the initiative might be labeled as racist by their opponents.
“What is racist about enforcing the law?” he asked.
Haynes said the potential for terrorists to cross the border is another reason for the state police agency.
“The federal government has dropped the ball,” said Haynes, who represents western Riverside and northern San Diego counties. “The feds patrol the border, but once those coming in illegally get past the ports [of entry], they are in free.”
LaMalfa echoed Haynes in saying the federal government was not doing its job.
“We’re not doing [illegal immigrants] a favor by fostering an atmosphere where everybody winks and looks the other way,” he said. “They become lost in the community. We welcome legal immigrants.”
Haynes tried last year to qualify a measure that would have amended the state constitution, but fell about 100,000 signatures short he said. This time around he lowered the bar by trying to qualify a statute rather than an amendment, which requires more signatures.
The day before the press conference state Attorney General Bill Lockyer officially approved the ballot initiative’s wording, giving supporters five months to gather about 500,000 signatures.
Details of how the laws are enforced and who gets targeted for enforcement—the immigrants or those who hire them—will be up to the agency.