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December 09, 1994 - Image 62

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-12-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

UWR.
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60

JAMES D. BESSER WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

C

alifornia often leads the
nation in fad and fashion.
And with voters across the
country turning to polling
booths to vent a raging, un-
focused anger, Californians may
be aheactof the political curve, as
well.
This possibility may be omi-
nous news for the Jewish com-
munity. On Nov. 8, California
voters resoundingly passed
Proposition 187, a ballot initia-
tive that will deny basic health
and educational services to ille-
gal immigrants and their chil-
dren. That vote is part of a
broader trend that is legitimiz-
ing the politics of scapegoating —
a shrill alarm signal to other
vulnerable minorities.
In California and other states,
illegal immigration and the re-
sulting burdens on government
agencies are serious matters. But
the pro-187 fight went far beyond
the debate over how best to con-

a very divisive campaign, one
that manipulated fears and
anxieties that were compounded
by our economic problems. Any
time you unleash that kind of fear
of the stranger, everybody is
swept in."
That atmosphere of near-hys-
teria has become particularly
evident to Mark Slavkin in recent
days. Mr. Slavkin, president of
the Los Angeles Board of Educa-
tion, is the target of a recall effort
because his agency joined hun-
dreds of other California school
boards that filed a legal challenge
to Proposition 187. That action
resulted in a restraining order
blocking the act's education
provisions.
"Maybe it's just a coincidence
that they chose me, a Jew, as a
target of recall," he said of the ef-
fort to force his ouster. "But Jews
have a real reason to be con-
cerned. The mind-set, the passion
and, often, the hysteria of this

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Prop. 187 & The
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trol our borders and parcel out
expensive services in an era of
budgetary austerity.
"The campaign was devastat-
ing," said Betty Reuben, Califor-
nia state public affairs chair for
the National Council of Jewish
Women, a group that fought hard
against the initiative.
"Some of the ads," she said,
"portrayed people rushing over
the border, as if they were in-
vading. A lot of publicity focused
on immigrants in general, not
just on illegal immigrants. It was

remind us of similar things in the
past, when constitutional guar-
antees have been trampled in the
name of the will of the people."
Seen by itself, Proposition 187
is just another example of Cali-
fornia's peculiar system of voter
initiatives. But the mean-
spirited vote did not occur in a
vacuum. Instead, it was an ex-
pression of a growing tendency to
seek out vulnerable groups on
which to vent voters' collective
feelings of anger and frustration.
Focus group studies in Cali-

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