PORT ANGELES, WA.—A far right-wing outfit, Respect Washington (RW), failed to collect enough signatures to qualify their immigrant-bashing initiative for the ballot in Washington State this November.

The measure would have required state and local law enforcement to join with the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in hunting down undocumented people throughout the state. The measure also would have required employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check the legal status of workers and bar undocumented immigrants from obtaining drivers licenses.

Despite some newspapers, such as the Peninsula Daily News, inserting blank copies of the petition in editions in early June, fewer than 100,000 signatures were collected. The group had until this Thursday to gather 241,000 signatures of registered voters. An identical measure failed to gain ballot status in 2008, 2007, and 2006.

Ricardo Garcia, a founding member of the state’s first Spanish-language public radio station said he is not surprised that the measure repeatedly fails. “The initiative lacks compassion and its one that the citizens of our state have consistently rejected for that reason,” he said.

The rebuff to the immigrant-bashers comes at a time of rising resistance to anti-immigrant witch-hunting. There have been several highly publicized arrests and deportations that resulted in tragic breakups of families and a climate of fear in immigrant communities.

Here on the Olympic Peninsula a grassroots Stop the Checkpoints Committee has staged several protest demonstrations against ICE-Border Patrol checkpoints on U.S. Highway 101 in the past year. Among those detained was Edgar Ayala, an honor student and star athlete at Forks High School who was arrested last year at an ICE-Border Patrol checkpoint a mile or so from his home where he lived since infancy. He was instantly deported to Mexico.

The Port Townsend City Council recently sent a letter to President Obama asking his administration to suspend ICE-Border Patrol enforcement on the Peninsula because of concerns for violations of human rights.

The Border Patrol announced July 1 that plans to build a new headquarters has been placed on hold. “The bottom line is that the project is on hold due to budgetary issues,” said Ross Buffington, a spokesperson for the U.S. General
Services Administration in Seattle. He said GSA and the Border Patrol have not been able to find space for the facility at an affordable price. The facility was to include offices for the beefed-up force and a temporary detention center.

The number of agents assigned to the Olympic Peninsula has soared from four to 24. One rationale was the apprehension of alleged al-Qaida terrorist, Ahmed Ressam at the Port Angeles ferry dock Dec. 14, 1999. The trunk of his car was packed with explosives and he told authorities he planned to blow up the Los Angeles airport on New Years Eve, 1999. But aside from that incident, the Peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides and with only one through highway, U.S.-101, seems an unlikely entry-point for terrorists. There was widespread praise for the alertness of law enforcement officers in apprehending Ressam.

But not a single terrorist has been uncovered in the years since. Instead, it is working people and their families who have been targeted for arrest and deportation. Among them are Jose Antonio Hernandez and Daniel Rodriguez arrested by Border Patrol agents in Sequim last February. Hernandez did not have his green card with him and Rodriguez is still awaiting deportation to Mexico. It took a struggle to win Hernandez’ freedom to return to his wife and children in Sequim. Protesters stood vigil on Sequim street corners holding signs, “Bring Tony and Daniel Home! Stop Homeland Security Fear Tactics.”
Lois Danks, chair of the Stop the Checkpoints Committee told the World that freeing Hernandez was a big victory but the struggle to end the harassment and intimidation continues.

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