A project of the Center for Community Change

Lack of support for state proposal to end access to healthcare for immigrant youth

healthcare.jpgAfter several valiant attempts to prevent immigrant children from accessing valuable healthcare, (which in the end saves taxpayers money by preventing health complications later on down the line….) Bob Baker of Washington state has again failed, rather largely, to secure the necessary petition signatures to get a proposal on the ballot in the state. 

Support comes up short for immigration initiative
By PAT MUIR
YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC

An initiative aimed at cutting off state benefits to undocumented immigrants will not be on this year’s election ballot.

Bob Baker, sponsor of I-966, said Friday the measure died with about 150,000 petition signatures, well short of the 224,880 required to get it on the ballot.

“I feel the worst for the people over your way,” said Baker, an airline pilot who lives on Mercer Island. “You’re kind of at the epicenter of this issue.”

Indeed, about 70,000 of the signatures on I-966 petitions came from Eastern Washington, Baker said. Earlier this week, he said he had about 70,000 from the Yakima area. He explained Friday he meant that to mean anything east of the Cascades.

The initiative would have required government workers to withhold public benefits from illegal immigrants. To make it onto the ballot for a November vote, supporters needed to gather enough signatures from registered voters to equal 8 percent of the turnout for the last gubernatorial election. To meet that standard, an initiative likely needed at least 260,000 signatures — a 15 percent cushion — to ensure it had 224,880 valid ones, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed said this week.

Locally, I-966 was supported by Grassroots of Yakima Valley and the Yakima Minuteman, groups opposed to illegal immigration that often had the petitions at their events. Carl Evans, a Grassroots member who worked with Baker on getting the signatures, said earlier this week that nearly everyone he asked to sign the petition had done so. Evans was not available for comment Friday afternoon after it became clear the petition drive had failed.

The problem, Baker said, was not that people opposed the initiative, but that they either didn’t know about it or put off signing it until it was too late.

“I believe with all my heart that it resonated with people,” he said. “Our rate of successful signatures was about 95 percent.”

Supporters raised about $5,000 to back the effort, including about $4,000 that went to paid signature-gatherers, he said.

“We didn’t have the money to put ads in newspapers,” Baker said.

It was the second time the measure had come up short. In 2006, Baker sponsored Initiative 946, which was essentially the same as this year’s I-966. It also failed to make the ballot. A third effort is coming, he said, but it might have to wait until 2009.

“My first thought is, ‘Let’s take this year (2008) and focus on the presidential race and the other races,'” he said.

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