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CHINATOWN : Coalition of Groups Denounce Prop. 187

October 30, 1994|TINA NGUYEN

A coalition of Chinese American organizations denounced Proposition 187 Tuesday as an "anti-difference" measure that will pit Californians against each other.

The coalition of eight groups, including Chinese American lawyers and associations for women and the elderly, said at a news conference at the Chinese American Consolidated Benevolent Office that the measure will stigmatize all non-Anglo ethnic groups as foreign and illegal.

"America is a country of immigrants. Asians and Hispanics should not have to prove that they are more American than anyone else," said Roger Yee, a member of Chinese Americans United for Self Empowerment, a group of business and community leaders.

Supporters of the measure, which would deny most public services to illegal immigrants, say they are not opposed to legal immigration.

"It's not a matter of where you come from, but how you're coming here," pro-187 campaign chairman Ron Prince said in response to the coalition's comments.

Chi Mui, chairman of the Asian Pacific American Education Commission of the Los Angeles Unified School District, called the state initiative's plan to deny illegal immigrant children access to education unconstitutional. He also criticized its provision requiring educators to verify the citizenship of students and their parents and to report those here illegally to the immigration service.

If Proposition 187 passes, the Los Angeles Unified School District estimates it may lose federal funding that helps pay for reduced-cost meal programs and specialized teaching programs for at-risk youths. Mui, whose two sons attend Castelar Elementary School in Chinatown, said about 60% of the school's 1,000 students depend on meal plans.

"That's a lot of money, especially when we don't even have enough money for pencils and books for some kids," Mui said.

Proposition 187's supporters deny that the measure is unconstitutional and say public school funding is not in jeopardy, if the courts uphold the measure.

Julie Lee of the Organization of Chinese American Women said Proposition 187 poses special problems for women who are here illegally and are dependent on their husbands. Some men, she said, might threaten their wives with deportation to keep them subservient.

Lee, a counselor for battered women, added that others might be reluctant to use health clinics and social services that require verification of citizenship.

The measure has stirred anxiety and misunderstanding among Chinese senior citizens who are legal residents, said Deborah Ching, director of Chinatown Service Center. Because many cannot speak English, they misconstrue the proposition as an anti-immigrant measure that will deny them medical benefits and Social Security, she said.

Other panelists expressed concern that the proposition will discourage Pacific Rim businesses from investing in California.

Tom Chan of the Self Empowerment group said: "There would be an exodus of businesses here if Chinese Americans are unjustly discriminated against. Corporations outside the state will be reluctant to enter or invest in California."

Partly in response to concerns over the measure, some Chinese American organizations have launched voter education and registration programs. According to polls conducted by Asian Pacific Americans for a New L.A., most registered Asian American voters oppose the initiative. The group's coordinator, David Monkawa, said a poll of 1,459 households found 805 opposed to Proposition 187, 123 in support and 492 undecided.

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