ANAHEIM — More than 100 friends, schoolmates and fellow soccer players filed past the casket of Julio Cano on Monday to pay their respects to the boy whose death rekindled the debate over Proposition 187.
The 12-year-old's parents, illegal immigrants, have said they delayed seeking medical treatment for him because they feared Proposition 187 would require a hospital or publicly funded clinic to report them to immigration officials. The boy died Nov. 19, one day after his parents gathered enough cash to take him to a private neighborhood clinic.
Early autopsy results indicate Julio had acute leukemia and a secondary infection. It is unknown whether earlier medical intervention could have saved him.
News of Julio's death thrust the family into the political spotlight, but also prompted an outpouring of support from firefighters, the boy's school and members of the family's church, who have donated enough money to help fly the boy's body to his native Mexico.
"We finally feel that everything will be over soon. Our son can finally rest," said the father. "This whole time he has still been in the morgue, but at last he will arrive (today) in Acapulco and our families will receive him there."
As Julio's mother cradled her youngest baby and sobbed Monday, more than 100 boys dressed in their soccer uniforms filed into the Anaheim mortuary to say goodby to their friend, who played on the same Salvation Army-sponsored league.
"He was special. He scored a lot of goals," said Enrique Bernal, 13, who played on a different team than Julio and had a challenge going with his friend to see who could score the most.
"We wanted to see him for the last time," said Richard Rivera, 13, who also played on the team with Julio at Sycamore Junior High School, where Julio also tutored other students in English.
Julio's parents said they did not know a restraining order temporarily bars enforcement of most provisions of Proposition 187, the voter-approved initiative that would deny all publicly supported services including non-emergency health care and schooling to undocumented immigrants.
Opponents of the measure have called the tragedy a harbinger, especially if the health aspects of the measure eventually are enforced.
Proposition 187 proponents say his death is being manipulated for political ends.
"I think it's outrageous that the 'No-on-187' people used this tragedy as a way to vent their anger against the will of the people," Harold Ezell, a former federal immigration official and co-author of Proposition 187, said Monday.
"I don't believe (the family) stayed away because of a proposition that is not even implemented. . . . If they did, which I doubt, it shows the damage and fear that was put into these people (by Proposition 187 opponents). If there's blood on anybody's hands, it's theirs." Monday, church members and friends remembered a warm boy who was a dedicated student and enthusiastic athlete.
"He just had so much love for everybody. He was always happy," said Michelle Horta, 15, the pastor's daughter.
Gilda Canessa, who attends the same church as the Cano family, came to the viewing Monday after donating some baby clothes and a blanket to Julio's parents.
"I felt really bad for them. In spite of politics, I feel that 'Hey, there's a death in the family.' It's tragic," said Canessa, who voted for Proposition 187. "My heart really goes out to these people. They come here. They want to improve their lives. They don't want to take advantage, but everyone needs medical attention."
Principal Pat Savage said the school raised $1,400 for the family in two days and she estimated that "well over 1,000" of the school's 1,284 students donated something.
"One of the messages that I have for my students is that if they really want to do something in memory of Julio, that they do exactly what Julio did," Savage said. "Every day come to school, every day do their homework, respect their parents and teachers, and work toward a goal. Because that's exactly what he did every day."
The Salvation Army Church in Anaheim, which the family has been attending for the past 1 1/2 years, conducted a funeral for the boy on Sunday and has directed people to a trust fund set up for the family by the Anaheim Firefighters Assn.
INS officials said the agency plans no action against the Cano family because it does not have the resources to go after undocumented immigrants who are not breaking any other laws.
"INS priorities are criminal aliens, fraud and employer sanctions," said Donald B. Looney, deputy district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Los Angeles. "We don't have anything on it, and it doesn't fall into our priorities."
Times staff writer Julie Marquis contributed to this report.