Magazine article The Progressive

Battling Immigrant Bashers

Magazine article The Progressive

Battling Immigrant Bashers

Article excerpt

Tucson, Arizona

Only a week after Californians passed Proposition 187, aimed at denying health care and education to undocumented immigrants, one group announced plans to start a similar anti-immigrant crusade in Arizona. On November 14, Save Our State/Arizona called a press conference in downtown Tucson, next to the statue of a mounted Pancho Villa. "We want to pass 187 in Arizona at the earliest possible date," said founder Don Barrington. "Illegal aliens are criminals. They contribute nothing to make this community of Tucson better. They just take. And that fellow on the horse is an example of a Mexican national who didn't give a damn about the border."

Such ugly rhetoric is a serious problem to Isabel Garcia, a Tucson attorney and spokeswoman for the Derechos Humanos (Human Rights) Coalition. "To us, it shows a failure in educating the American public," she says. "There are a lot of highly ignorant people out there."

The Coalition plans to conduct teach-ins, and will help organize a national march on Washington in 1996. "We've been going to meetings of church groups, to the Lions Club, local county adult education classes, anywhere people will listen," Garcia says. "We feel that's the only way we're going to counter all this, because it's very clear to us that conservative politicans plan to use immigration as their main theme. I think they're seeing it as the Willie Horton of 1996."

California's Proposition 187 has already sown confusion in Arizona. Recently, for instance, the Tucson school district asked two girls for birth certificates before letting them take classes.

"They still can't do that here," says Jose Matus, project coordinator for the Arizona Border Rights Coalition. "Those girls were entitled to attend school regardless of their citizenship, which school officials eventually realized. …

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