Declaring that children "should not be used as pawns in debates regarding immigration policy," the governing board of the largest school district in Orange County has voted to condemn Proposition 187, the November ballot measure that calls for barring illegal immigrant students.
In a 3-2 vote after an emotional debate Tuesday night, the Santa Ana Unified School District Board asserted that the measure is unconstitutional and would turn district employees "into inquisitors and adversaries of the students."
Proposition 187, which currently enjoys widespread support in statewide polls, could force more than 300,000 students out of schools statewide and would require school administrators to report any students or parents they suspect of being in the country illegally to federal immigration authorities. Among other provisions, it would also prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving most health care and social services.
Santa Ana board member Audrey Yamagata-Noji, noting that her ancestors had been thrown into World War II detention camps for Japanese immigrants who were legal residents, said Proposition 187 invites racist enforcement.
"Would we be looking at blond, blue-eyed children who might have come here illegally from Canada?" she asked. "Or are we going to look at little Juanito or Juanita?"
Board member Robert W. Balen said that if the measure passes, he will refuse as a matter of principle to cooperate with anyone who attempts to question his own family members about their immigration status. "There is a tendency in economic downturns to look for scapegoats, and I think that's what's happened here," he said.
Board member Rosemarie Avila, who spoke in favor of Proposition 187, compared the United States to a lifeboat that could only accommodate 10 people at one time. Although compassion demands that people try to save others, she said, "If you put 40 people on a (10-person) lifeboat it will sink and no one will be saved."
Meanwhile, a new statewide Field poll registered a dip in support for Proposition 187. The poll shows the measure favored by 57% to 31%, compared with 64% to 27% in July. The margin of error for the new poll was 4.2%.
Poll director Mark Di Camillo said the shift may be traced in part to the fact that more information about the potential financial impact of the measure was provided in the new poll. This time, respondents were read language not previously available that will appear on the November ballot summary. The summary says that the measure places at risk billions of dollars in federal funding for California.