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Message-ID: <s7b05810.067@mail.ci.detroit.mi.us>
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999 16:48:51 -0400
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YorkU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YorkU.CA>
From: Charles Brown <CharlesB@CNCL.CI.DETROIT.MI.US>
Subject: Unity defeats anti-immigration law

Unity defeats anti-immigration law

By Evelina Alarcon, in People's Weekly World
10 August 1999

LOS ANGELES - Proposition 187, the measure the launched a national ultra-right offensive against immigrants in 1994, is finally over in California - but not without a battle.

After weeks of mediation with civil rights organizations opposed to Prop. 187, Gov. Gray Davis agreed not to appeal an earlier federal court ruling that held much of the initiative to be unconstitutional. This effectively kills the legislation, which ignited one of the most vicious anti-immigrant campaigns in our country's history.

The mediation agreement, filed July 29 with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, permanently bars the enactment of the ballot measure's core provisions. That includes those that would have prevented undocumented immigrant children from attending public schools and undocumented immigrants from receiving health care and social services.

The agreement also eliminates one of the most terrorizing aspects of the law - the requirement that police, school administrators, teachers, and health workers turn in suspected undocumented immigrants to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for deportation.

"We hope this is the first symbol in a series of changes for the state from 'Wilsonian' divisiveness to a climate of tolerance, inclusion and 'one California community,'" said Gloria Molina, Los Angeles County Supervisor and chair of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) - one of the civil rights organizations that filed the suit against Prop. 187.

MALDEF Communications Director Laura Ferreiro told the World that the decision to throw out Prop. 187 will now open up various health-care and educational benefits to undocumented immigrants previously denied them.

Mexican-American and Latino leaders and organizations have led the effort to rid the state of Prop. 187. Strong messages were sent to Gov. Davis that keeping his campaign promise to end an era of wedge-issue politics meant ending this racist, anti-Latino proposition.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the state's first Mexican American elected to statewide office, courageously put his career at risk to protest Gov. Davis' earlier decision to send Prop. 187 to mediation rather than to drop the state's appeal of the federal court decision ruling the measure unconstitutional. The appeal originated with former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

Lt. Gov. Bustamante, in opposition to fellow Democrat Gov. Davis, filed an amicus brief in court in support of Federal Judge Mariana Pfaelzer's decision that 187 was unconstitutional.

"This is a matter of principal to me! I can't go home and look at my kids, my mother, my community and say that while I was here, I honored the lieutenant governor's position by staying silent on this issue," Bustamante said at the time.

The leaders of 26 African-American, Asian-American and Latino groups responded immediately by writing an open letter praising the lieutenant governor for "standing tall for the rights of all Californians."

It was pressure like this, which included phone calls, lobbying and criticism of Gov. Davis from up and down the state, that finally convinced him to drop the appeal.

Prop. 187 was initiated by an ultra-right coalition which organized a so-called "Save Our State" campaign, which unjustly scapegoated immigrants for California's economic, education and social problems.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson championed Prop. 187 using immigrant bashing to get reelected after his popularity rating had dipped to 20 percent, the lowest for any governor in the history of California.

The Prop. 187 campaign was highly financed by the Republican Party and quickly spread nationally as an integral part of the party's ultra-right=

"Contract on America."

The phony anti-immigrant arguments used to pass Prop. 187 in California were the same used by Republicans to demand welfare and immigration reform bills in the Congress, which were passed in 1996.

The extreme racism and chauvinism of Prop. 187 also laid the groundwork for the passage of other racist measures in California - anti-affirmative action Prop. 209 and anti-bilingual education Prop. 227.

The passage of these propositions sparked an historic response from Latinos. Prop. 187 led to one of the largest protest demonstrations ever, with tens of thousands marching in Los Angeles.

Successful national campaigns were launched by Mexican-American, Latino and Asian-American organizations to mobilize thousands of immigrants to become citizens. Over a million Latinos were registered to vote.

The growth of participation of Latinos in the electoral arena of California, alongside labor union mobilization and the African-American vote, was the base of the election trouncing that Republicans received everywhere in the state in 1998.

The Latino vote here and in other states was also a decisive part of insuring that Republicans did not take over the Congress and the White House in 1996 and stopped them from establishing a veto-proof Senate in 1998.

While the ending of Prop. 187 is a tremendous victory, forces for civil rights must continue to pressure the governor who is caving in on the issues of affirmative action and bilingual education.

The governor shocked his fellow Democrats in the state legislature last week when he vetoed a bill authored by State Senator Richard Polanco, a Democrat from Los Angeles, which would have maintained outreach programs for minorities and women in government hiring.

Davis who was a staunch opponent of anti-affirmative action Prop. 209, nonetheless argued that the Polanco bill violated Prop. 209's barring of race or gender based efforts.

The governor stated in a one-page veto message that outreach should be limited to economic and geographic factors.

Gov. Davis has often stated that his agenda is to move the Democratic Party to the center and to respect voters decisions even when he disagrees with them.

This was the argument Davis gave on sending Prop. 187 to mediation and now on his veto of the Polanco bill. This has outraged civil rights organizations throughout the state.

The fact that Latinos and civil rights groups were able to pressure the governor to change his mind on Prop. 187 establishes that a battle must be waged with the governor on affirmative action and bilingual education as well.

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