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Rights Groups Meet to Discuss Policies : Professionals Study Issues, Including AIDS, Homeless, Violence

Times Staff Writer

Human rights groups from across the state have been meeting in Santa Ana this week to draft policies and recommendations on AIDS, the homeless and on a ballot initiative that would make English the official language of California, among other issues.

Officials of the San Jose-based California Assn. of Human Rights Organizations, a consortium of state-sponsored and private nonprofit human rights groups, said the conference is also designed to educate rights groups on how to better serve people with discrimination complaints.

“We needed a training conference, not just a get-together,” said James P. McEntee Sr., president of CAHRO.

Seminars for this year’s conference include instruction on a variety of techniques designed to further civil rights in California.

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Tells of Legislation

Marty Mercado, coordinator of a state attorney general’s report on culture-based violence released in April, told the gathering Friday that legislation aimed at updating civil rights protections is being sponsored by state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles).

“This is where you come in,” Mercado said, urging support for the bill that is expected to be introduced in the fall session. “Now we need your help.”

She said the legislation would set up a pilot program based on recommendations made by the report on cultural violence. Among other recommendations that are expected to be acted on soon are the establishment of community centers for human relations that would increase services to citizens and a uniform reporting system to gauge violence instigated by so-called hate groups, she said.

Mercado said independent groups are monitoring anti-race violence but each group uses a different system.

Another goal of that legislation would be to teach police how to effectively identify discrimination-based violence.

Tells of School Problems

Mercado recalled the killing of an Asian student in Davis that allegedly resulted from racial discrimination and said many schools are having trouble intergrating ethnic and racial groups.

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The conference will include a debate on the English-only ballot initiative. Although representatives from both sides of the issue will be heard, Alan Rothstein, a member of CAHRO’s board of directors, said a resolution condemning the initiative is expected to pass.

Other topics scheduled for discussion are the problems of senior citizens, undocumented aliens, the homeless, labor mediation, terrorism and how human rights groups can better deal with those problems.

Most of approximately 60 people in attendance are commissioners or staffers from various human relations commissions--city and county agencies that deal with civil rights problems.

Santa Ana and Orange County are the only local governments that have human relations commissions.

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