Washington state

Immigration rules fail to make ballot

YAKIMA – Proponents of a state initiative that called for stricter immigration rules failed again to collect enough signatures to make the November ballot.

Craig Keller, chairman of Respect Washington, the main group behind the initiative, told the Yakima Herald-Republic that organizers had not counted all of the signatures collected, but it was clear they fell short of the amount needed.

The group had until Thursday to return more than 241,000 valid voter signatures to make it on the election ballot. Keller said the group collected less than 100,000.

An identical initiative didn’t make the ballot last year. Efforts in 2006 and 2007 for similar initiatives also fell short. But Keller was not dismayed by this year’s results.

“I think there’s a lot to build on for filing this again next January,” he said.

Proposals in the initiate included requiring employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check immigration status of workers, and barring illegal immigrants from obtaining a driver’s license.

This year, the initiative had been sponsored by Wendell Hannigan, a Yakama tribe member from White Swan, a small town in the Yakima Valley.

Hannigan had said his motivation for being the sponsor is his worry that illegal immigration is going unchecked by the federal government. The Yakima Valley has one of the highest concentrations of Hispanic communities in the state. The area’s vast agricultural industry has attracted Hispanic farm workers for decades.

Respect Washington tried to use inserts in newspapers to widen their reach. Last month, the group paid newspapers in Yakima, Skagit and Clallam counties to include their petition as an insert.

Ricardo Garcia, who was a founding member of the state’s first Spanish-language public radio station, said he wasn’t surprised the initiative would not be in the November ballot.

“The initiative lacks compassion, and it’s one that the citizens of our state have consistently rejected for that reason,” Garcia said.