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TV REVIEW : KCET Looks Inside Prop. 187 Campaign

November 02, 1994|ROBERT KOEHLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Who could have predicted that a tiny group based in Tustin, with the help of former Immigration and Naturalization Service honchos Harold Ezell and Bill King, would turn this election year upside down? The group's baby, Proposition 187, may not save the state, but it's certainly saved us all from a state of total electoral boredom.

KCET reporter Jeffrey Kaye doesn't so much look inside the 187ers with his "Life & Times" report "And Close the Door Behind You" as balance the arguments on both sides of the incendiary illegal immigration debate. If anything, we hear more from Ezell than, for instance, from key Proposition 187 opponent Juan Jose Gutierrez, who helped organize the recent massive Los Angeles protest against the measure.

Kaye offers a clear summary of Proposition 187's provisions and of how supporters expect victory as well as immediate legal challenges. Indeed, Ezell tells Kaye that he hopes and anticipates that the Supreme Court will be the ultimate arbiter on the measure's provision to ban undocumented youth from public schools and colleges.

Ezell doesn't allow himself an on-camera chuckle, though, at the less-than-shrewd tactic by his opponents of waving Mexican flags at anti-187 rallies. Gutierrez bristles at the notion that this isn't exactly the way to woo voters, but that doesn't make the notion wrong.

For all the solid reporting here, including a concise history of California's love-hate relations with immigrants, Kaye blows a golden opportunity to explain the Mexican economic conditions that make the United States so attractive. The border wouldn't be "a state of mind," nor would crossing it illegally be "a tradition" in small northern towns if those towns were full of employed people generating wealth. Until that happens, nothing will really change.

* "And Close the Door Behind You" airs at 7:30 tonight on KCET-TV Channel 28.

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