Rights leaders denounce anti-immigrant slurs

By Marilyn Bechtel, in People's Weekly World,
16 September, 1995

California immigrant rights leaders are denouncing anti-immigrant demagoguery by ultra-right political candidates jockeying for the Republican presidential nomination, and are emphasizing fightback campaigns for full immigrant rights.

Recent instances include California's ultra-right Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's use of the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop to announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in a speech filled with anti-immigrant slurs and Sen. Robert Dole's (R-Kans.) denunciation of bilingual education.

Right-wing politicians try to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment as they seek new scapegoats to blame for policy decisions which have brought about economic and social crisis, said Juan Jose Gutierrez. Gutierrez heads the National Coordinating Committee for Citizenship and Civic Participation, which is spearheading a march for immigrant rights and affirmative action in Los Angeles Oct. 15.

A broad spectrum of immigrant, labor, community, civil rights and religious organizations including John F. Henning of the California Labor Federation, the Utility Workers, the Mexican American Political Association, the Hispanic Ministries of the Roman Catholic Church, the Bay Area Haitian American Council, many student groups, and others are supporting the march. For information: (213)268-8472.

One reason immigrants are the most vulnerable section of the working class, Gutierrez said, is that many cannot vote and therefore, as a group are underrepresented politically. "Politicians and reactionaries have believed that immigrants can be attacked with impunity and there will be no political consequences," he said.

That belief was severely challenged last year, Gutierrez said, when the immigrant community mobilized with broad sections of labor and peoples organizations to fight anti-immigrant ballot Proposition 187. Despite the measure's passage, he said, changes in the voting population including newly naturalized citizens, youth coming of voting age since the last election and former Prop. 187 supporters who have changed their minds, could help turn the tide in the 1996 elections.

John Castelfranco, program coordinator for the Berkeley-based East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, said candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are using anti-immigrant slurs to "divert people and turn their attention away from the real problems such as the loss of jobs and declining wages."

Gordon Mar, director of San Francisco's Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), said Wilson has tried to use anti-immigrant rhetoric to split even the immigrant community. He said the CPA supports the widespread citizenship campaigns which are encouraging record numbers of Latinos and Asians to apply for naturalization and then to register to vote.

Another positive effort, Mar said, is the first annual Immigrant Pride Day to beheld in San Francisco's Mission District Oct. 8. The program will include cultural activities, ethnic cuisine, educational booths, forums, workshops and presentations. The S.F. Board of Supervisors this week proclaimed the second Sunday in October each year to be Immigrant Pride Day. For information, call (415) 648-5257.

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