Colorado Eyes Limit on Benefits for Aliens; Follows Arizona, California Lead

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Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

DENVER - A third Western state is moving forward with a ballot measure to deny state services to illegal immigrants, an effort that could spell trouble for the White House by galvanizing opposition to President Bush's guest-worker proposal.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, began the latest campaign last week by announcing that he had filed papers for a Colorado constitutional amendment that would restrict all but non-emergency services to U.S. residents and legal aliens.

His proposal follows similar efforts in Arizona and California, where organizers are circulating petitions for citizen initiatives that would ban state welfare and other services for illegal aliens. If they gather enough signatures, all three measures would appear on their state ballots in November.

"The only way you're ever going to get a handle on this is to restrict social services so that they [illegal immigrants] will leave," said Mr. Tancredo, a prominent opponent of Mr. Bush's guest-worker plan.

Proponents say the measures could spell trouble for the president's re-election campaign by energizing voters, particularly Republicans, against his guest-worker plan. All three measures are either led by Republicans or have the support of some state and local Republican leaders, despite the opposition of top Republican elected officials.

President Bush's plan would grant guest-worker status to those who have jobs waiting for them in the United States. Foes of the White House proposal argue that it would encourage illegal immigration by making the estimated 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens eligible for what amounts to amnesty.

"If amnesty goes through, Bush will lose the White House," said Ron Prince, the author of Save Our State, the California initiative. "He's not going to pick up any votes on the other side, and Republicans won't vote. And that's the message Republican elitists need to understand: They say, 'Where will Republican voters go?' and I say, 'I don't have to go anywhere. I can stay home.'"

Arizona organizers echoed that sentiment. "Bush barely won Arizona in 2000, and the polls show that people are less likely to vote for him after they hear about his amnesty program," said Kathy McKee, director of the Arizona initiative, known as Protect Arizona Now.

The issue reached a boiling point Saturday when delegates to the Arizona Republican Party's annual convention defied the state's leadership by voting 317-109 to support Protect Arizona Now, which is gathering signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Two weeks earlier, the Maricopa County Republican Party voted to endorse the initiative. Polls show as much as 85 percent of Arizona Republicans support the measure, which also would require proof of citizenship and identification before voting, despite the solid opposition of the state's party leadership and congressional delegation. …