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Coalition Prepares to Battle 'Save Our State' Proposition : Politics: Children's Alliance says SOS would be costly to enforce and could cause spread of disease. It would deny schooling and most health care to illegal immigrants.

August 03, 1994|DOREEN CARVAJAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Warning about hate, Hitler and "soldiers of Satan," a coalition of local Latino groups on Tuesday launched a campaign to battle the wide-ranging "Save Our State" initiative that seeks to oust illegal immigrants from California schools.

The newly formed group, dubbed the Children's Alliance, reserved its most fiery rhetoric for their neighbors, the Orange County group that organized the petition movement to bar undocumented immigrants from public schools and health clinics.

"We should be fighting this in Orange County, because here in Orange County is where SOS was given birth," said Nativo Lopez, whose Santa Ana organization, Hermandad Mexicana, hosted the coalition of about a dozen local groups.

"This is the heart of the cancer," said Arturo Montez, who mockingly labeled SOS, "Soldiers of Satan," and predicted that the proposition would create a Hitler-style police state. The measure, Proposition 187 on the November ballot, would cut off most public services for undocumented immigrants. All health services, except emergency care, would be prohibited. School officials would be expected to report children and parents they suspect of being here illegally. Law enforcement agencies would have to cooperate with the INS in the search for illegal immigrants.

The alliance, which includes the League of United Latin-American Citizens and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, is the second coalition in Orange County this year to wage an educational campaign to counter anti-immigrant sentiment.

In May, a group called Orange County Alliance for Immigrant Rights formed to challenge negative stereotypes of immigrants. In addition, the Catholic Diocese of Orange County has been quietly laying the groundwork to battle the proposition. And the Children's Alliance plans to work with the parishes.

Most of the pastors from the 53 Catholic churches in Orange County met last month to discuss a strategy that includes a voter registration drive, door-to-door campaigning and occasional Sunday sermons devoted to the issue. A second meeting was intended to educate church members about the issue, said Msgr. Jaime Soto of the diocese.

"We had a presentation that dealt with the church's moral imperative to speak out," said Soto, who has preached against the initiative from the pulpit of his Santa Ana church. "The church has a moral imperative to protect the dignity of life, whether that be the life of the child in the womb or the life of an undocumented immigrant. We are called upon to cherish the dignity of that life and to seek out the means to include them."

The alliance charges that the measure would be costly to enforce and could even create health hazards if immigrant children are not allowed to be treated for sickness or immunized against disease.

Barbara Coe, a Huntington Beach resident and the chairwoman of California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which helped gather signatures for the initiative, disagrees.

"If the child is an illegal alien, then the child and his family have 135 days to return to their country of origin," Coe said. "Obviously, the child will be in the school system and is not going to be denied immunization during that period of time."

State Rep. Mickey Conroy (R-Orange), who supports the initiative, said of organizations such as the Alliance: "They ought to register those groups as foreign agents because they're representing nationals against our government."

The measure has become an issue in his 71st Assembly race for reelection against Democrat Jeanne Costales, who joined with Alliance members on Tuesday to denounce the initiative and its impact on health.

"Do you really want people cooking your food, cleaning your babies and taking care of your old folks when they have no access to health care?" she asked.

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