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Immigration initiative fails to reach ballot for second time

A statewide initiative spearheaded by an Island resident that would have prohibited government agencies from aiding illegal immigrants did not get enough signatures to make the November ballot.

Bob Baker, a former City Council candidate, tried for the second consecutive year to raise enough signatures to put I-966 before the voters. I-966 would have asked voters to approve a new law that prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits other than education and emergency medical care.

“It looks like we’re not going to make it,” Baker said on Friday, the day the signatures were due. “We just ran out of time. I feel sorry for the people in Yakima. They worked their hearts out. About 50 percent of our signatures came from the Yakima Valley.”

The initiative received nearly twice as many signatures compared to last year, totaling around 150,000, Baker said. Initiatives must get 224,000 signatures from registered voters to make the ballot. Last year, the proposal received about 80,000 signatures. Baker attributed the increase in signatures to starting earlier and using paid signature gatherers, though it was still not enough.

“We had paid signature gatherers this year and we started earlier,” Baker said. “We did go to court over it again but we did start two months earlier.”

If approved by voters, the initiative would have required the state and local governments to verify the identity, eligibility and immigration status of every application for non-federally mandated public benefits. Those benefits include food stamps and other social services but do not include Kindergarten through 12th grade education or emergency medical care.

State law defines undocumented aliens as persons who entered the United States without inspection at the border or were lawfully admitted but have lost their status.

The measure would also have made failing to report immigration violations to federal officials a misdemeanor. Identification that does not require proof of immigration status, such as a driver’s license, would also become an invalid method of establishing identity. Private lawsuits for immigration violations would also be permitted.

In support of the measure, Baker stated last April that federal auditors determined in 2006 that more than $83 million was spent for fraudulent payments for thousands of illegal immigrants’ medical expenses.

“It’s obvious we have a problem with illegal immigration in this state and this country,” Baker said then.

Baker is a semi-retired Alaska Airlines and former Air Force pilot. He is also a Minuteman, a citizen-led group that patrols U.S. borders. In 2005, Baker ran an unsuccessful campaign for City Council.

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