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DOWNTOWN : Legal Groups Offer Free Services to Bias Victims

Saying the passage of Proposition 187 has prompted an onslaught of racism, several Southern California legal associations Friday announced a joint effort to offer free services to victims of alleged discrimination.

The network, Proposition 187 Fight Back Coalition, will link lawyers from several bar associations with those who complain that their civil rights have been violated on the basis of race, said Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild.

“This is a new civil rights movement, which is reminiscent of the movement to defend African Americans in the ‘60s,” said Lafferty, who added that at least 40 lawyers have volunteered to take cases.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles has been acting as a clearinghouse for the coalition, fielding hundreds of calls on its hot line, (213) 353-1341.

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Lafferty and members of several ethnic minority legal associations said the voter-approved Proposition 187--which, if implemented, will deny most public services to illegal immigrants--has affected legal and undocumented immigrants alike.

Representatives of the Mexican American Bar Assn. said some students who demonstrated against the ballot initiative before its passage are threatened with suspension or expulsion from their schools. Attorneys also reported that several undocumented immigrants said they have been denied health care in some clinics.

“They’re suffering the ripple effect of the racism that 187 has created,” said Raul Granados of the Mexican American Bar Assn.

Other coalition members include the Philippine American Bar Assn., Asian-Pacific Legal Center, Los Angeles chapter of the California Women Lawyers’ Assn., National Conference of Black Lawyers and Japanese American Bar Assn.

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