Proposition 187, the controversial anti-illegal immigrant measure that has focused national attention on California this election season, is a wake-up call to the federal government no matter what happens on Tuesday, said Garden Grove Mayor Frank Kessler.
Garden Grove, a community with a sizable population of Latino and Asian immigrants--both legal and illegal--is one of three Orange County cities that have endorsed the statewide initiative, which critics assail as racist and xenophobic.
The overwhelming majority of Orange County school boards and city councils have taken no position on the ballot measure. An informal survey shows that in addition to those supporting Proposition 187, one council and three school boards have formally voted to oppose it.
"The whole thing comes down to a message to the federal government that the whole (immigration) system needs to be reworked. There has to be respect for this country and for the laws of this nation," said Kessler, a former police officer. "Enough is enough. These people (illegal immigrants) are a drain on our resources."
The measure would bar illegal immigrants and their children from attending public schools and deny them access to non-emergency health care programs they now qualify for, including immunization and prenatal care. The initiative would also require public school administrators to report newly enrolled children whom they suspect of being illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
The latest Los Angeles Times Poll showed that the 26-point lead once held by the initiative has dwindled to 10 points.
There is little interest among Orange County governing bodies to jump into the controversy.
Yorba Linda Mayor Barbara Kiley, state co-chairwoman of the Proposition 187 campaign, said the endorsements by the councils are nothing more than symbolic.
"I don't think there's any benefit to the individual cities. It's purely a political move by the councils. (The endorsements) will have a minimal effect at best. Except for Santa Ana, most cities in Orange County don't disburse public funds to illegal immigrants," said Kiley.
Santa Ana, the largest city in the county, with perhaps the biggest immigrant population, has not taken a position on Proposition 187.
In contrast, board members of the Santa Ana Unified School District, the county's largest, voted 3 to 2 to condemn the initiative, saying it would turn "employees into inquisitors and adversaries of the students."
Kiley's own council did not take a position on the initiative, "because I didn't think it was appropriate to use the council to campaign for something I'm involved in," Kiley said.
In addition to Garden Grove, the measure was endorsed by councils in Huntington Beach and Tustin, where Proposition 187 was born. The Huntington Beach council voted 4-2 to support the measure, while Tustin's supported it unanimously.
The Laguna Beach City Council denounced the measure in a unanimous vote. Board members of the Laguna Beach Unified School District also voted unanimously to oppose the measure.
The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board is scheduled to vote on a Proposition 187 resolution Monday.
Trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District did not take an official position on the initiative, but it released a report showing that passage of the measure could cost the district $12.5 million in new costs and lost revenue. The report said it would cost an estimated $15 to $20 per pupil to verify legal residency.
Asked if she would report a student whom she thought was in the United States illegally, Kiley said she "wouldn't have a problem. Absolutely none."
"They broke the law to enter the United States. We're a nation of laws. What's the difference between breaking into the United States and breaking into my house? I know it sounds cold and cruel. But the cold and cruel fact is that citizen children must be educated first."
Taking a Stand
So far, four city councils and three school boards have taken positions on Proposition 187. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board has scheduled a vote on Monday.
* Garden Grove: Adopted supporting resolution. Mayor Frank Kessler and council members Mark Leyes and Bruce A. Broadwater voted in favor; members Robert F. Dinsen and Ho Chung abstained.
* Huntington Beach: Adopted supporting resolution by 4-2 vote. Council members Jim Silva, David Sullivan, Victor Leipzig and Earle Robitaille voted in favor; members Grace Winchell and Ralph Bauer opposed; Mayor Linda Moulton Patterson was absent.
* Laguna Beach: Unanimously voted to oppose.
* Tustin: Unanimously voted to support.
* Anaheim City: Unanimously voted to oppose.
* Laguna Beach Unified: Unanimously voted to oppose.
* Santa Ana Unified: Adopted opposing resolution by 3-2 vote. Trustees Sal Mendoza, Audrey Yamagata-Noji, Robert W. Balen voted to oppose; Rosemarie Avila and Tom Chaffee were in favor.
Source: Individual councils and school districts
Los Angeles Times