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School Trustees to Widen Plan for Payment

Education: Anaheim will seek to recoup costs for teaching illegal immigrants from any country, not just Mexico.

July 16, 1999|MARIA ELENA FERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Anaheim school trustee who wants to bill Mexico for the education of illegal immigrants said Thursday that he wants to broaden his plan to seek reimbursement from other countries as well.

At a meeting marked by protests from some activists, Anaheim Union High School District board President Harald G. Martin introduced a plan calling for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS, to count students who are in the U.S. illegally.

The board voted 5-0 to establish a committee, consisting of Trustees Alexandra Coronado and Robert Stewart, to draft a resolution seeking payments. The resolution is scheduled for a vote at next month's meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, 34 community activists served Martin with legal documents stating their intent to sue him on grounds of violating their civil rights through discrimination if his plan is approved next month.

"We are tired of the district's frivolous waste of taxpayer money," Jessica Castro, one of the activists, said in an interview before the meeting. "We demand a total halt of this plan. It's unconstitutional and we are not going to stand for it."

Martin grimaced as one of the protesters, Amin David, head of Los Amigos of Orange County, handed over his document.

"Go ahead and make all the faces," David said. "You can't change the face that you wear."

"What kind of example are you giving to our students when you refer to them as illegal aliens?" he said. "Our children take note of it, and they come to believe they're illegal human beings."

Mel Kernahan, a former Anaheim resident of 30 years now living in Laguna Woods, said the board's consideration of suing other countries embarrassed her.

"I find it ironic that in one breath you are discussing displaying the Golden Rule in school, and then you can bring such a thing up," she said.

While most of those speaking at the meeting opposed Martin's idea, a few supported it.

"Illegal students take away resources from those who are here legally," said David Olson of Newport Beach. "I would no sooner have others who are working hard pay for my education if I enter their country illegally."

As Martin began to speak, nearly 40 protesters walked out.

Martin, who has acknowledged his controversial idea may never be adopted, said he has grown frustrated with the state's inability to implement Proposition 187, which calls for illegal immigrants to be removed from public schools.

When he proposed the idea in May, he focused on Mexico. But lawyers warned the trustees they could be sued for discrimination if they passed a resolution billing Mexico exclusively.

"The board, in its overall wisdom, says that going after Mexico is not the right thing to do," Martin said. "If we're going to go against any illegals, we should go after all of them. I believe that the bulk of the illegals we will find will be from the country of Mexico because of its proximity.

"We don't want to know who the children are, just how many there are from each country," he said.

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