Why Proposition 187 Is Wrong

by Gregory Nicholson | 11/23/94 6:00am

I have heard Rebecca Liddicoat'95's explanation for voting for Proposition 187 several times, and it is clear that she did not vote for it for racist reasons.

That is to say, she did not vote for it because she desires to see all Mexican-Americans gone from California, she would like to see only illegal immigrants, regardless of their race or ethnicity, gone from California.

What she fails to recognize in her column, "Why California Voted for Proposition 187," is that even though her reasons for voting are not racist, the proposition is inherently racist.

Liddicoat recognizes that the majority of immigrants in California come from Mexico. What this means in terms of the proposition is that Mexican-Americans will be subject to harassment in an attempt to enforce the law. There is no way to tell if one person is illegal and another is not without requiring documentation.

Do we honestly think that police and other agencies will require all whites to present documentation when they seek services? On the other hand, because the majority of immigrants do come from Mexico, all Mexican-Americans will be required to prove their legitimacy. On what grounds? The grounds of their skin color, nationality, ethnicity.

How could this be avoided? There have been suggestions that all residents carry an identification card with their picture and thumbprint on it. The identification could be demanded at any time at school, by any school official.

This proposition covers institutions such as UCLA, which means that anyone walking across campus could be stopped and forced to provide identification. Imagine walking across the green and being forced to prove your right to be here. Even assuming that a system such as this was enforced equitably, which in all likelihood it would not be, it reminds me very forcibly of pass laws.

Furthermore, Prop. 187 denies health services to illegal immigrants and to children of illegal immigrants who were born in California, who are actually United States citizens. This includes immunizations for newborns.

What is likely to follow is an outbreak of fatal diseases such as tuberculosis and polio. Since these immunizations will only be denied to children of illegal immigrants, who will be comprised primarily of Mexicans, it is a systematic way for the state of California to murder Mexicans they don't want in the state.

Who is to enforce these laws? The hope of the recently re-elected Governor Pete Wilson is that teachers, health care workers and other employees of the state will serve as an extension of the INS.

Despite the fact that many have already expressed a willingness to refuse this command, this is an attempt to establish a form of secret police. Why should public servants in education and health care be required to enforce the laws of the state? Do we expect them to arrest murderers and thieves? This is not their job, and neither is immigration control.

The "feeling" that "illegals bring crime and lawlessness with them" is not founded, but just an emotion. The crime and lawlessness would exist no matter what population resided in the squalid conditions of the American under class, it is not a product of Mexico. For proof of this, one must only look at the urban areas throughout the nation. Deportation is not going to end crime and violence.

The economic issue is perhaps more complicated. However, the agricultural business relies very heavily on immigrant labor. Pete Wilson knows this, which is why in the past he has encouraged illegal migrant workers from Mexico.

Furthermore, the poor state of the California economy is not a result of illegal immigration. There are many complex factors behind the state of any economy and no problem can be solved by targeting one issue.

Californians hope to save money by eliminating services to illegal immigrants, but by violating the Constitution California stands to lose billions of dollars in federal aid, which will far outweigh any savings the state may gain, which are by no means guaranteed but rely on the uncertain success of the program.

The example of the hospital in Watsonville is an unfortunate one. However, if the issue really is one of taxes, as Liddicoat suggests, then this example is no longer valid. She admits that Watsonville receives no money to pay for health care for illegal immigrants, therefore, illegal immigrants do not raise taxes, at least in this case. The hospital situation needs to be addressed, but there are many other solutions which do not deny services to specific races or ethnicities.

In the end though, the economics of Prop. 187 are not the main issue. The main issue is whether or not we are going to allow the government to implement racist legislation. We've come too far to allow this now.