A small grassroots organization seeking to put Arizona’s strict new illegal immigration law on the ballot is optimistic but faces the daunting task of collecting about 7,500 signatures a day by July 1.
The organization, Compassion for All, must collect 153,365 valid signatures in less than a month to qualify for the November ballot. Organizers took out petitions for their ballot initiative on May 24, a month after Gov. Jan Brewer signed S1070.
Compassion for All held a press conference at the Capitol June 7 to publicize its efforts and announce its new leadership. The group was initially organized by a Phoenix priest who has since passed the torch to the small group of about 25 people.
Moira Carney, a Spanish teacher at Central High School who serves as treasurer Compassion for All, said the group has collected several thousand signatures and little money. But she is hopeful that the group can collect the signatures, or least change people’s minds in the process.
“I’ve had people walk up to me against what we’re doing, pro-1070, and leave signing (the petition),” she said. “We need to look at what we can do as a compassionate group of people to alleviate the suffering of others. I am an eternal optimist. I hope in three weeks to be walking in here to present 155,000 signatures. And if not, I’ll say we gave it our best shot, and hopefully in this process we will change or bring out the compassion of our humanity.”
Organizers said they don’t have any financial resources or the backing of any larger organizations, but are meeting soon with representatives of the League of United Latin American Citizens and other advocacy groups.
Even if Compassion for All manages to collect enough signatures – which Carney acknowledged might take a miracle – the ballot initiative would have to contend with the strong support S1070 has gotten from the public. Nearly every poll conducted on the bill has shown majority support, with one poll showing that about 70 percent of voters backed the new law.
But Tony Herrera, another member of the organization, said the public will become less supportive as it learns more about the law. For example, he said, FBI statistics refute the notion that crime has gone up as illegal immigration has increased in recent years.
“It’s like the polls that were taken before the Iraq war,” he said. “If you took a poll then, most Americans favored invading Iraq. If you take a poll now, I think you’ll find a substantial difference.”
S1070 also faces a second ballot measure – a referendum organized by a Phoenix student – and five lawsuits. Carney said she believes the lawsuits, which contend that the law is an unconstitutional infringement on the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration law, will succeed in striking down S1070.