The 411 on Prop 200

Imagine taking your child to school, and all of a sudden the social worker shows up asking for proof of citizenship or legal status.

Now imagine not having it, because you came to this country risking your life through Arizona's desert, wishing to escape the deep poverty of your countryside town, in search of a better life for your child, and hoping to help family back in Mexico.

Imagine working 70 hours a week for years, with fears larger than reality, scared by your patrona who swears that la migra can find you at the 7 Eleven and you better stay here, working.

You have worked for $5 and taxes have been taken out of your check.

Now you want your child to read and write to escape the circle. But when you go to school, a school employee asks for IDs, you don't have them, and you end up in a prison waiting for deportation.

In 1994 Californian voters passed Proposition 187, which barred undocumented children from all public schools and colleges, although it was struck down at a federal court three years later.

Last year, while most Americans' attention was focused on Iraq and the presidential election, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, the "Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act," which shares Proposition 187 spirit, but was crafted as a "baby steps" to make it harder to challenge.

Proposition 200 seeks to curb access to public services for illegal immigrants, in order to discourage others from crossing.

It also requires proof of citizenship at the time of voting registration, but that part was just included to make it all more confusing.

Public employees providing state and local services now have to ask for proof of citizenship or legal status, and report to federal immigration authorities anybody suspected of being in this country without papers.

Failure to do so will make the employee and potentially her supervisor guilty of a class two misdemeanor, which carries four months in prison and a $750 fine.

The group that promoted the measure, Protect Arizona Now (PAN), has repeatedly denied any racial motivation. However, their committee includes Dr. Virginia Abernethy, a self-proclaimed "white separatist" and leader of white supremacist organizations, as well as other prominent white supremacists and cultural nationalists.

PAN was heavily funded by national anti-immigrant organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Americans for Better Immigration. Proposition 200 was approved by 56 percent of Arizonans, and has encouraged these organizations to evoke similar initiatives in other states.

They feel everything is in their favor now, when their government locks up foreigners without charge for months, invades a sovereign country despite the world's opposition, and passes a Patriot Act that takes away fundamental rights.

Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) has labeled Proposition 200 as "mean-spirited and un-American," and is seeking to block the law while it appeals a lower court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the proposition. Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Eugenio Derbez has said that the Mexican government will bring the case to international tribunals if necessary, although the Fox administration has labeled his pro-Mexican-American stance as merely political.There is debate about the extent of the services affected.

Federal services or services explicitly exempted by federal law from requiring proof of status are not affected, such as emergency health care, K-12 education, immunization programs, emergency food assistance and other emergency public services.

Affected people are being assured that they shouldn't fear sending their children to school or requesting emergency medical care.

But for a population already living in constant fear of deportation, this new law is sure to make their lives even more miserable, and their willingness to be super-exploited by their employers will increase as well.

Besides, we can be sure that the people behind Proposition 200 won't stop there. Deep poverty in Mexico won't go away anytime soon, so closing the doors to immigrants escaping poverty amounts to promoting the deaths of thousands.