By The Morning News
LITTLE ROCK - A proposed ballot measure that would require citizenship or an alternate legal status to be verified or expressed before Arkansans over 13 could receive public benefits was refiled Thursday after being rejected by the attorney general.
Secure Arkansas, the grassroots organization behind the proposal, submitted a revised version of a proposed measure that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel had rejected a week earlier, citing its length and ambiguities in the text.
McDaniel must certify or reject the revised proposal by April 30. If approved, supporters could begin gathering the 61,974 signatures necessary to place the measure on the November general election ballot.
The revised proposal expands the legal definitions and is about 200 words shorter, Secure Arkansas chairwoman Jeannie Burlsworth said.
The measure would require state agencies and political subdivisions to "verify the lawful presence in the United States" of anyone over 13 who has applied for local, state and certain federal public benefits that are administered by state agencies or political subdivisions.
Applicants also would be required to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury that they are lawfully present in the U.S.
Exceptions to the measure would include emergency medical conditions, organ transplants, disaster relief, treatment of disease, prenatal care, soup kitchens, crisis counseling and short-term shelters.
Arkansas' immigrant population growth during the 1990s was the second-highest in the nation.
The immigrant population, both legal and illegal, was responsible for a $2.9 billion economic impact in Arkansas in 2004, and also caused 23,100 new jobs to be spun off, according to a 2007 study on immigrants in Arkansas funded by the Winthrop Rockefeller foundation.
Illegal immigrants make possible $1.4 billion in production annually for state manufacturers and other companies, which pay them $95 million less than they would legal citizens, the study found.
Last summer, state agencies said immigrants, both legal and illegal, cost the state about $170 million a year. The agencies provided the information to a joint meeting of legislative committees studying the impact of illegal immigration in Arkansas.
Secure Arkansas' ballot initiative is opposed by the Arkansas Friendship Coalition, a statewide advocacy group opposed to punitive laws that target immigrants.