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CALIFORNIA COMMENTARY : Enough Is More Than Enough : We can't afford illegal immigration. Prop. 187 forces the federal government to take responsibility.

PROP. 187: Measure would deny public health, education and welfare benefits to illegal immigrants. One in a series.

October 23, 1994|HAROLD W. EZELL | Harold W. Ezell, a co-author of Proposition 187, was commissioner of the INS' Western region from 1983 to 1989

The issue of illegal immigration is color-blind; it is not a racial but a legal issue. It is an issue that taxpayers, who have seen our tax dollars squandered on programs that have nothing to do with American citizens or legal aliens, understand.

Each of us must ask ourselves: How many illegals can we educate, medicate, compensate and incarcerate before California goes bankrupt? Can we continue business as usual, wasting taxpayer dollars?

The opponents of 187 say it's flawed, poorly written, doesn't really answer the question of illegal immigration and costs too much. They agree that something must be done, but they have no solution. The Democratic Party elder statesman, former Sen. Eugene McCarthy, says, "The 'save our state' initiative is a way to let the government know people aren't happy with things as they are."

Proposition 187 is not the total answer, but it is a piece of the puzzle. It will send a message that even the White House will understand. We must do something about our borders. Californians are not going to reward and underwrite those who come here illegally, whether by land, sea or air. Let the White House sue us for not paying for illegals.

The widow of the late Howard Jarvis, founder of the taxpayers' revolt in the 1970s and the father of Proposition 13, told me that she spent many hours gathering signatures for Proposition 187. "If Howard was alive," Estelle Jarvis said, "he would stand shoulder to shoulder with you and see that Proposition 187 becomes a reality."

Proposition 187 is the Proposition 13 of the 1990s. Just as Proposition 13 had its impact on all state and local candidates, so will Proposition 187. Gov. Pete Wilson says yes on 187. What does your politician say?

We have heard the opponents say that $15 billion, which the federal government pays to California annually, will be taken away if Proposition 187 becomes law. That's baloney; the chances of that happening are as good as that of the Clinton Administration balancing the budget in 1996. Does anyone really believe that the Clinton Administration would take one dime from the most populous state in the nation?

Here's the truth behind the myth of the $15 billion. The federal government pays annually $3 billion for education costs in California. These funds would not be lost. Passage of 187 will require the attorney general to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to test the Plyler vs. Doe decision of 1982. This bad decision allows any 5-year-old, here legally or not, to get a free, 12-year education plus college. We can't afford this. Proposition 187 would force the Supreme Court to revisit the issue.

In addition, $9 billion is spent annually for medical reimbursement to the state of California. California taxpayers alone are paying $400 million per year to provide medical care to approximately 317,000 illegals. The California Medical Assn. wants our dollars without accountability. They say that we cannot ask a person if they are legally in the United States, that it's against federal law. This is not true. The First District Court of Appeals in California said in August that we can ask. The court upheld the 1992 state law requiring all medical applicants to disclose their Social Security numbers.

The additional $3 billion that our opponents say Uncle Sam will "take away" is for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or welfare. Proposition 187 has nothing to do with children born here, who are citizens whether or not their parents are legal and thus entitled to the federal AFDC.

The Chicken Little opponents, who say the sky is falling if you vote yes on 187, are not telling the truth. California taxpayers are spending 10% of state general funds to underwrite illegal immigration--$3.4 billion per year. Proposition 187 would cost several million to implement, while saving billions. This is a good investment.

Our opponents ignore the Proposition 187 provisions that require law enforcement cooperation among state and local agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This initiative requires local law enforcement agencies to cooperate when they come in contact with illegals. Maybe this is why L.A. County Sheriff Sherman Block is a "No on 187" spokesperson. It's hard for me to understand why Block, whose county has the largest population of illegals in the nation and who has sworn to uphold the laws of the land, will not allow his officers to cooperate with the INS.

Another important provision of Proposition 187 is a change in the state penal code that would make it a felony, with a five-year prison term and a $75,000 fine, to manufacture, sell or distribute phony documents. A $25,000 fine and five-year prison term would apply if an individual uses a phony document to get a benefit. This would be a major help in the enforcement of employer sanctions.

Proposition 187 is not enough, but it tells the federal government that California has had enough and we're not going to take it any more.

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