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HUNTINGTON PARK : Students Hold Rally Opposing Prop. 187

October 23, 1994|SIMON ROMERO

The backdrop was as archetypal American as apple pie: a field of flowing green grass, jutting goal posts and weathered bleachers lined with high school students joshing each other and shouting cheers.

The cause for the Monday morning rally, however, had nothing to do with bolstering spirit for the Huntington Park High School football team.

"We're out here not because we want to be, but because we have to be," said Lissette Huizar, 14.

About 500 students were excused from class to attend a rally organized by students and administrators in opposition of Proposition 187, an initiative on the November ballot that would deny public education, health care--except emergency services--and welfare to illegal immigrants.

Teachers and administrators could be held responsible for reporting suspected illegal immigrants to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The rally came after a two-week spurt of walkouts at area schools, including Huntington Park High, in which thousands of students have marched through busy thoroughfares in opposition to the initiative. It was organized to provide a vent for the growing frustration among the many students who perceive the measure as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino.

"Basically, we want to let kids know that cutting school and marching along Pacific Boulevard is no way to oppose 187," said Ric Loya, a teacher at the school who is also mayor of Huntington Park. "When the cameras show a bunch of kids running around wild, shouting cuss words, that just fuels people's fears. It strengthens those who actually support 187."

Ron Prince, a Tustin accountant who is a leading proponent of the proposition, said he hadn't heard of the student walkouts or the Huntington Park rally, but he did express concern about conditions at the school.

"Those students that are citizens will be thankful when their schools aren't so overcrowded with others that are here illegally, who will be sent back to their country of origin," he said.

Loya, who led the City Council in September to issue a proclamation denouncing the proposition, said that although exact figures are not kept, he estimated that up to a quarter of the high school's students are undocumented.

"(Proposition) 187's going to put the entire system in a state of limbo," said math teacher MiChung Gilbert. "No one really knows how it's going to be enforced, but the burden will probably lie with the administration, not the teachers."

Judging from the stream of students approaching the podium to speak against Proposition 187, that state of limbo has already begun. Students, speaking in Spanish and English, alternately shouted down the ballot item for a variety of reasons.

Some thought only those who looked Latino would be singled out. Others thought it would wreak havoc on their schools because the federal government may withhold $1 billion in funding because the requirements of the initiative violate federal regulations.

In contrast to the concern expressed by those who addressed the rally, many of the students lining the bleachers chose to use the rally as an excuse to gossip or tease other students. Others, though, said they believed some good could come about.

"If this whole 187 thing has any good effect at all, it might be to get people my age involved in politics," said Carol Perales, 17. "Then they might learn that where we're living right now, it was all part of Mexico at one time, and that would give them pride."

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