One Arizona, an ad hoc organization in the state which passed the harshest immigration law in the nation, filed an initiative that could either delay or repeal the measure.

A group calling itself One Arizona filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s Office on April 28 to begin a petition drive to overturn S1070, which is being called the toughest state-level illegal immigration law in the country.

If the group wants the referendum to be on the November ballot, it must collect 76,682 signatures and turn them in before the immigration law takes effect 90 days after the legislative session ends.

But if organizers submit their signatures after July 1 – the deadline for citizen initiatives, but not for referenda – the Secretary of State’s Office said it cannot guarantee that it will have enough time to prepare the referendum for the November 2010 ballot. If not, the issue would appear instead on the November 2012 ballot.

The implementation of a new law is put on hold when a referendum on the law qualifies for the ballot.

Observers believe that One Arizona would shoot for the 2012 ballot, delaying implementation of the law by two years and building support for the measure. In addition, this would allow time for the law to work its way through the courts, where it could be found unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Immigration Law Center will hold a press conference today announcing their intention to sue, on the grounds that the state law “interferes with the federal government’s duty to handle immigration.” This is what sunk Prop 187 in California.

However, regardless of the court issue, I would expect the initiative to go forward, to channel the anger felt by many in Arizona into something productive. And then the people can decide if they want to be harassed, asked for their papers, and profiled.

David Dayen

David Dayen