Immigration

Initiative 52: Why undocumented immigrants driver's license measure didn't make the ballot

Initiative 52, which would have allowed undocumented immigrants with an individual tax identification number, last year's tax return and a form of government-issued ID from their country of origin to obtain driver's licenses, will not be on November's ballot. Supporters fell short of collecting the 86,105 required signatures by Monday's deadline. In the end, they collected about 40,000, says Jennifer Piper of the American Friends Service Committee.

"We felt we got a good response in terms of the community," says Piper, who volunteered with the campaign. She notes that about one in three people signed the petition -- many more than she guesses would have ten years ago, when she began working on immigrant issues. Even those who declined did so politely, Piper says.

"But we didn't have enough volunteers," she says. The campaign's goal was to recruit 1,000 people to circulate petitions, but Piper says they wound up with about 600. Undocumented immigrants are not allowed to sign the petitions or circulate them.

But the issue won't go away, supporters promise. Piper says the campaign is looking at a possible legislative solution, as well as gearing up to try for another ballot initiative in two years. "This is the first time anyone, including me, ever worked on ballot initiative campaign," Piper says. "We definitely learned quite a bit along the way." Their biggest lesson? To hit the road running as soon as it's possible to collect signatures.

Last week, as it was looking as if they wouldn't collect enough signatures, supporters held a press conference at Dulceria Gota de Miel, a shop on Federal Boulevard that sells sweets and party supplies. Volunteer Sujey Varela, speaking through an interpreter, said: "Just because this initiative hasn't been completed, we're not going to stop here. If the initiative doesn't get to a place we're happy (with), we're not going to feel that we've lost hope."

Volunteer Jeanette Vizguerra, whose fight to stay in the United States has been well documented, added: "We achieved a lot more than we were expecting."

More from our Immigration archive: "Immigration: Jose Luis Vazquez Campos loses battle to stop his deportation."

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar