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Platform : Prop. 187: ‘Racist Initiative’ or a ‘Step in the Right Direction?’

<i> Compiled for The Times by Lorenza Munoz</i>

On Nov. 8, Californians will vote on a controversial initiative on immigration, Proposition 187, the so-called Save Our State initiative (See box, right). Here are opinions on the initiative from Latinos and Latinas, a community that arguably will be most affected if S.O.S. passes.

EDGAR APARICIO

Artist, 44, legal resident who emigrated from El Salvador 12 years ago

I came here because of the war in El Salvador (after his wife, brother, sister-in-law and daughter were killed).

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What I have heard about the initiative is that it will prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving medical benefits, and the children will be denied education. It is justified by stating that it will save money, but what is forgotten is that the refugees are here as a result of American policy toward the countries we came from. It is a policy of helping repressive regimes, not a policy of helping to create jobs in our countries or solving the problems.

The sad and contradictory part is that we are in a worse situation here. With this initiative we would not have access to health care. What country in the world denies health care to a human being? Even a country like Cuba that is poor and criticized for its economic system has the sensibility to understand that the essential elements for a human being are access to health care and an education. Denying illegal immigrants an education would only increase the formation of gangs and juvenile delinquency.

This initiative would have normal folks, like teachers, whose mission is to educate, point a finger at a person who looks illegal. That would be the saddest thing for a teacher, to learn how to destroy rather than construct. It would have police officers and doctors or nurses point a finger at somebody who comes asking for help. CELESTE GREIG

Importer/exporter, naturalized American citizen who emigrated from Spain 27 years ago

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The sad part of Proposition 187 is that our elected officials have blatantly disregarded the will of the people, therefore we have to go through the process of the initiative in order to implement the laws. They have failed to come up with good legal immigration policy.

I think that this is not a perfect initiative, but it’s a step in the right direction. A lot of people from the opposition claim we are using the illegal aliens as scapegoats because of the economy. That is not true.

These individuals that come here, granted, come here to seek a better life due to finances at home. I know for a fact that there is a very small percentage of them who come here because of disturbances in their countries.

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I don’t think that the illegal aliens are to blame for crime. However, I do feel very strongly that they do contribute to the decay of the economy. Some people claim that they pay their share of taxes, but I am in business. Most of these people do not pay their share of taxes because when they come here they do not have documents.

Our children are not getting enough education--the classrooms are crowded. I sympathize with all of the children, legal or illegal, but let’s face it: We have to take care of our people first.

Personally, if I came across somebody who I knew was an illegal alien I could not report them. I know it is hard to comprehend why I am supporting the S.O.S. initiative and why I would be unable to turn somebody in, but I just couldn’t do it. That will be the role of law enforcement and the school system. PETE NAVARRO

Attorney, 43, Los Angeles native

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This initiative is the most racist initiative ever. It targets the Mexican, Central American and Asian communities. The proponents of this initiative are using the immigrant population as scapegoats for the economic woes of this state, which are the result, in my opinion, of Republican economic policies in the past 12 years.

This initiative targets the most vulnerable segments of our population: children and the sick. The children of the immigrants had no choice in the matter as to immigrate. They have no political power--they can’t vote. And the uninsured sick who have no health benefits, can’t qualify for medical, are in the worst position to fight for their rights.

It also doesn’t make practical sense. The initiative states that, undocumented or not, all are eligible for emergency health care. That means, if I was undocumented and have a cough and a fever, I go to the clinic or general hospital, I will be denied care. So I have to wait until it develops into pneumonia, then I’ll be eligible and they’ll have to spend thousands of dollars.

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Proponents don’t mind illegal immigrants cleaning their toilets, taking care of their children and mowing their lawns and on the other hand talking about all of these problems that illegal immigrants are causing. Illegal immigration is a problem that is larger than what this initiative or any local initiative can handle. It’s a global problem, tied to international economics. FEDERICO MARISCAL

Mexican citizen, 24, attending USC on a student visa

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I think this is a really complex problem, but I agree with the proponents. There are too many people here already. The United States has lots of problems with health care and crime. They have to take care of their problems first before they take care of the problems of illegal aliens. I think one of the problems is that illegal immigrants don’t merge into American society. For example, Mexicans stay Mexican and Asians stay Asians--everyone has their own society. They can’t melt into American society in general if they don’t want to.

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I think Mexican heritage and culture is so strong that it’s really hard for them to melt into American society. I am not saying that we have to forget our heritage as Mexicans; I think we have a great history and culture and we have to be proud of it. However, if you are coming here, you have to change a little bit. To break into another culture you have to at least speak the language.

In Mexico it is very, very hard to become a Mexican citizen. What we have to do as Mexicans is try to improve the situation in Mexico. If these people want to leave Mexico it’s because something is wrong.

AMANDA

Undocumented immigrant, 34, who arrived in Los Angeles from Honduras 18 months ago

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I don’t think this initiative will cease immigration to this country. The causes of immigration originate in our countries. There is too much poverty, too much injustice, terrible economic conditions, political repression and those causes still persist in our countries.I came here not only for a better way to live (myself) but to provide a better way of life for my family. I could not come here with my two children. I left them in Honduras with my family. My intention is to stay here for a while and then go back, because really the situation here is not very easy.

In our countries we are not aware of the services that are offered here. We only hope to improve ourselves and to work. We do pay taxes--we consume goods and services. This issue of illegal immigration needs to be looked at in a more creative way such as understanding the factors of immigration, and how much immigrants contribute to this country, economically and culturally. It cannot be looked at in only a negative light.

My life here has been very difficult and sad. It’s hard coming to a new country and leaving my family and experiencing discrimination. The negative effects of this initiative are already being felt. The fear in the immigrant community is growing.

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What the Ballot Proposal Would Do

Proposition 187, which will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, seeks to discourage illegal immigration by denying publicly funded benefits. Critics say immigrants come to the United States for jobs, not benefits. Here are the major provisions:

HEALTH SERVICES * Current law: Illegal immigrants may receive a wide variety of care at publicly funded hospitals and clinics. Federal law bars health facilities from denying emergency aid to anyone.

* Proposition 187: Denies non-emergency public care to those who cannot prove legal status, including prenatal and postnatal services.

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SOCIAL SERVICES

* Current law: Federal and state laws bar illegal immigrants from most major benefits, such as welfare and unemployment insurance.

* Proposition 187: Cuts off a host of other state and locally funded programs that are directed toward troubled youths, the blind and other illegal immigrants with special needs. FRAUDULENT DOCUMENTS

* Current law: The use of fraudulent documents to prove residency is illegal.

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* Proposition 187: Creates new state felonies and stiffens penalties.

EDUCATION * Current law: Court rulings have held that undocumented children are entitled to elementary and secondary public school education. Illegal immigrants may also attend state colleges and universities, but most are charged non-resident tuition rates.

* Proposition 187: Bars enrollment in all public schools, colleges and universities. Parents or guardians of all schoolchildren, including U.S. citizens, would likewise have to demonstrate legal residence. The law would oblige school administrators to report students and parents suspected of being illegal immigrants.

LAW ENFORCEMENT COOPERATION

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* Current law: Many local police agencies avoid getting involved in immigration matters because they believe it would discourage victims and witnesses from reporting crimes.

* Proposition 187: State, city and county law enforcement authorities would be obligated to question arrestees about their citizenship or immigration status and report suspected illegal immigrants to the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the state attorney general.


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