ARIZONA, USA — Arguing it was not just morally just but economically beneficial, supporters of the so-called “dreamers” proposition declared victory on Monday in Arizona. As of late afternoon Monday, “yes” votes for Proposition 308 led by more than 60,000 votes representing just over 52%.
The proposition allows children of immigrants who entered the country illegally to pay the same tuition rate for college as U.S. citizens.
“What this shows is there is a broad, bi-partisan consensus for immigration solutions,” said Rebecca Shi of the American Business Immigration Coalition.
A diverse coalition and a long struggle
Efforts to pass the amendment to Arizona’s state constitution have been years in the making. Many operatives behind the campaign also helped recall the polarizing Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce in 2011 after passing an illegal-immigration crack-down law that was largely declared unconstitutional.
“In recent years, we ended up with this wonderful coalition with so many supporters who lent us their time, their money, their expertise, and in many cases their reputations,” said Tyler Montague, co-chair of the Yes on 308 campaign. Montague is a lifelong Republican from Mesa who was involved in the 2011 recall.
Activist groups like Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC), Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) and Mi Familia Vota were critical to passing the initiative.
LUCHA ran its largest media campaign ever targeting Latino voters.
Mi Familia Vota, an organization dedicated to voter engagement, registered more than 35,000 voters and reached more than 200,000 thousand households.
“Having this conversation today does not feel real,” said Carolina Rodriguez-Greer of Mi Familia Vota. “It’s very encouraging and I hope a sign of things to come.”
Business community-supported campaign
Business leaders argued during the campaign that immigrants are needed to address labor shortages.
John Graham, a longtime Arizona Republican fundraiser and CEO of Suntrust Holdings, joined a coalition of business-friendly Republicans like Karen Taylor-Robson and House Speaker Rusty Bowers to support the measure.
“Prop 308 will help fortify the state’s future economic growth by encouraging all our talented students to build their careers here,” said Graham.
Bob Worsley, a former Republican legislator and co-chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition, said due to declining birth rates, the nation’s businesses and GDP growth depend on first-generation immigrants.
“This dialogue is not what the far-right wants to hear, so they continue to preach fear and racial division,” Worsley said.
Worsley called the rejection of Trump-endorsed candidates in Arizona at the ballot box “a massive display of reasonableness by Arizona voters.”
“I am proud of Arizona in how far we have come,” Worsley said. “Voters changed the constitution to treat children of immigrants brought to the United States with dignity and humanity.”
Political support also included Sinema, Kelly, Obama and local Republicans
“And now I’m looking to my Senators Sinema and Kelly to lead on a DREAM ACT in Washington D.C. to provide a permanent path to citizenship for our dreamers,” Graham said.
Montague publicly thanked Republican state legislators Rusty Bowers, Paul Boyer, T.J. Shope, Michelle Udall, Joel John, Tyler Pace, David Cook, and Joanne Osborne. Democrat Sean Bowie and “the entire Democratic caucus” were crucial for supporting the measure, he added.
“Many of these legislators were viciously attacked in their campaigns,” said Montague.
Who benefits from the new law?
In Arizona alone, there are more than 36,000 DACA-eligible residents.
Seventeen-year-old Hazel Villatoro is one of them. She graduated second in her class at North High School and is a freshman at Grand Canyon University, a private college.
Villatoro hopes to attend ASU next year. She wants to go into the medical field.
“I was very happy. This doesn’t just affect me. It affects our economy, our community,” Villatoro said.
State Republican Party opposed the proposition
Opponents of the measure included the State Republican Party. Republican lawmakers argued the proposition was “a misguided measure” that would lead to an increase in taxes statewide. Supporters of the proposition alleged that it was a baseless claim. Opponents also argued the proposition rewards people who came to the U.S. illegally.
“This initiative does little to solve the inherent causes leading to high tuition costs, and an attempt to solve one issue could create countless others,” said Dr. Kelli Ward, Chairwoman of the state GOP.
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