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Why California Should Vote ‘No’ on Proposition 187 : This great state is bigger and better and wiser than this

In the passions that swirl around this election’s now most controversial decision--Proposition 187--voters who still haven’t made up their minds should understand that in their hands lie one of the most significant matters they will ever confront in a polling booth.

FRUSTRATION PERSONIFIED: Many Californians--including Gov. Pete Wilson, who is fighting for reelection--are embracing this deeply flawed measure in part out of pent-up frustration with the federal government’s failure to enforce basic border control and its refusal to provide the money to help impacted border states cope with increased immigration.

Even if California defines illegal immigration as nothing but a problem--thereby ignoring the powerful economic benefits that derive from this valuable labor pool--there is no wisdom in lashing out in precipitous action that the state would come to regret.

Indeed, almost everything about Proposition 187 is wrong. It is wrong morally, because it would cast an indiscriminate shadow on people whose only real sin is to try to escape grinding poverty and make something of themselves. It is wrong politically, because the proposition’s very presence on the ballot is dividing the state into two emotionally polarized camps at the very time all Californians should be working together. Nothing is ever accomplished when the people are divided, as they certainly are now over this ill-named “Save Our State” initiative--which surely would prove to be a “Tear Our State Apart” consensus-wrecker.

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Perhaps the most telling argument against Proposition 187 is in a document called “Summary of Legislative Analyst’s Estimate of Net State and Local Government Fiscal Impact,” which appears in the California General Election Pamphlet, given to every registered voter.

The state legislative analyst’s office is nonpartisan; Republican and Democratic legislators alike avail themselves of its penetrating and time-proven analyses to help determine the likely impact of legislation. The professionals who work in the agency are highly regarded: When they have done their work on a pending bill and then speak out, legislators generally listen.

FLAWS MAGNIFIED: So listen to what these experts say about Proposition 187:

--Their analysis raises the specter of unintended consequences . Rather than save money, 187 might deprive the state of money: The ballot measure, they conclude, “places at risk billions of dollars annually in federal funding for state and local education, health and welfare programs due to conflicts between the measure’s provisions and federal requirements.”

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--They worry about considerable administrative disarray: “This measure does not set out any specific requirements as to how verification of citizenship or legal presence in the United States would be done.”

--They suggest that any savings from denying services to immigrants might be offset by the administrative costs of verification: “Ongoing annual costs could be in the tens of millions of dollars, with the first-year costs considerably higher (potentially in excess of $100 million).”

--They say that 187 might save money at first, but not in the long run: “Denying some medical services to illegal immigrants could result in future increased state and local health costs. For example, eliminating prenatal services to illegal immigrant women could result in higher Medi-Cal costs for their infants, who would be citizens. In addition, failure to treat and control serious contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis, among illegal immigrants could increase future costs to treat the disease in the general population.”

Faced with such a finding from the legislative analyst concerning some ordinary bill, as opposed to this monumental ballot measure, most state lawmakers would back away, return the bill to committee, do some more homework and work up a better measure. That’s exactly what California should do with Proposition 187: Hold off and do something more intelligent. For if this initiative passes on Nov. 8, that would be much harder to do. Yes, the courts might invalidate one portion or another, but the counterproductive statement will have been made. In the end, maybe the only people who will truly benefit will be the lawyers on either side collecting fees for litigating this whole misconceived thing.

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Yes, let’s get control of U.S. borders, but let’s not lose sight of our principles or abandon all reason. Vote “no” on Proposition 187.


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