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ELECTIONS / PROPOSITION 187 : Mexican Official Denounces Ballot Measure : Campaign: Deputy foreign minister says his government will work with foes of the plan, which would deny most services to illegal immigrants. Initiative backer accuses him of interference in U.S. affairs.


A leading Mexican government official has taken the unusual step of publicly condemning a California ballot measure, denouncing Proposition 187--the so-called "Save Our State" initiative--as a misguided effort that could create a Latino underclass and spur discrimination.

Moreover, Deputy Foreign Minister Andres Rozental, speaking Saturday evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown Los Angeles, declared his government's "commitment to work closely" with those opposed to the proposition.

The Mexican government will make its opposition known to business leaders and others, citing potential damage to U.S.-Mexican relations and cross-border commerce in the free-trade era, Rozental explained in an interview.

The controversial proposition--which seeks to force illegal immigrants to leave California and discourage others from arriving--will be on the state ballot Nov. 8. It would deny such immigrants public schooling and most publicly funded health care and social services, while requiring that police, educators, social workers and others report suspected illegal immigrants.

Rozental, a senior Foreign Ministry functionary who often addresses U.S.-Mexico matters, spoke during presentation of the Mexican government's prestigious Aguila Azteca (Aztec Eagle) awards to two prominent Mexican Americans, writer Luis Valdez and labor activist Baldemar Velasquez.

The diplomat's comments mirrored those of U.S. critics who have portrayed the far-reaching initiative as perhaps the most virulently anti-immigrant proposal to emerge in recent U.S. history.

"We fear the climate of hostility and violent confrontation that may be unleashed," Rozental said. "And we also fear the permanent damage that might be inflicted on the image of Mexicans and Mexico, both here and at home, which we have so painstakingly built up over the recent past."

In recent years, Mexican authorities have increasingly spoken out on behalf of the millions of expatriates residing in the United States, a group that has growing influence south of the border and whose remittances back home are one of the nation's major income sources.

Last year, the Mexican Foreign Ministry harshly criticized Gov. Pete Wilson for his pronouncements that illegal immigrants were draining the state's economy.

William S. King, a former U.S. Border Patrol chief who was one of the architects of Proposition 187, called Rozental's remarks undue interference in U.S. affairs. The comments, King said, reflect Mexican authorities' reluctance to do anything about illegal immigration and the vast and lucrative human-smuggling network.

"Proposition 187 will pass because the American people are tired of illegal immigration," King said.

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