Immigration Debate Rages In AZ

The only thing hotter than the peppers being picked along the U.S.-Mexico border these days is the reaction to Arizona's voter approved Proposition 200 aimed at weeding out illegal immigrants, cutting off their public benefits and sending them back home.

"These people just flood across and they're ruining our health care system and they're ruining our schools," says Walter Kolbe. "The people are just fed up with it."

As CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports, From Kolbe's backyard one can see Mexico and the backpacks and water bottles abandoned by the nightly wave of illegals crossing over.

"We are saying to our politicians, 'If you're against it then do something and stop this raping of our country,'" Kolbe said.

It was ten years ago that Angelita sneaked across to work as a housekeeper, a church volunteer and raise her family. Now, she's afraid to show her face.

"Ten years have passed and I live in fear in a country that can at any moment send me back to Mexico," Angelita said.

Angelita is in the Proposition 200 bull's eye because she is still illegal. So is her oldest daughter. Only her youngest girl was born in the United States.

"The oldest asks 'Why? Why can't we be accepted as Americans?'" Angelita told Bowen.

Hospital administrator Jim Dickson says soaring health care costs for illegal immigrants in border towns like Bisbee, Arizona helped fan the fires of Proposition 200.

"It will probably cause all the hospitals on the border to close if we don't start doing something about it," he says.

Proposition 200 doesn't just targets illegals. State funded workers, like the receptionists and doctors at a rural clinic, face fines and jail time if they don't turn in undocumented patients. Dr. Peggy Avina says she's ready for the handcuffs.

"I won't do it," says Avina. "They'll have to arrest me, because I won't do it."

The move to block immigration across the border triggered some surprising support. Nearly one-half of Arizona's Latino voters - 47 percent - voted for Propostion 200 and voted for cutting off benefits to the newest arrivals from south of the border.

The federal court ruling today says the law can take effect immediately. But critics say it will be very costly if enforced, especially if frightened illegals avoid health care to avoid being caught.

"As you have immigration across the border, diseases come, and so if the people who are here do not receive care, we cannot control the disease pattern," Dickson said.

But Arizonans voted their frustration.

"I'm afraid it's going to turn violent if someone doesn't listen to us," Kolbe said.

Now they just want the courts to back off and bend to the will of the people.
  • Jaime Holguin

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