Prop 187 perpetuates institutionalized racism

In times of trouble people need a scapegoat.

And that's what California voters got when they passed Proposition 187, a measure that only serves to ostracize a group of people on the basis of their heritage and culture.

The proposition claims to protect California from a surge of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. To protect the good citizens of the United States from footing the bill for those damn "aliens."

The usage of the term "alien" speaks volumes. What is an alien? The dictionary definition does include someone from another race or nation, but we must think beyond that. Mention the word alien and people usually think of the horrid space bug from the movies or creatures from Mars. The clinical definition is not the issue in this case, what everyday people think is important.

Labeling someone an "alien" denigrates them and makes them less than human. A person from another country is still a person, not some foreign, unknown being to be scared of.

Yet this fear is the premise of Proposition 187.

The measure would deny schooling, welfare and non-emergency health care to illegal immigrants in California. It is being challenged in the court system, and hopefully reason will prevail.

Yet the proposition doesn't stop at merely denying undocumented people with government-funded services. It turns every teacher, health care worker and apparently anyone else who feels like it into an arm of the immigration service. If Proposition 187 isn't stopped, these people will be required to alert the authorities if they suspect someone's immigration papers aren't in order.

A sweeping policy of responsibility is needed in a case like child abuse. If a teacher suspects a child is being abused, she is required to report her suspicions. This is fine, because it is for the good of the child and can help someone who is otherwise helpless.

But turning these same people into snitches for the government is not the solution.

What type of society are we devolving into if we expect people to report their neighbors, students, patients or even customers? Three teenagers in Stockton, Calif., claim that a cashier at a restaurant refused to sell them a pizza because they couldn't prove they were legal U.S. residents. According to the Associated Press, one of the kids is only 13.

While Proposition 187 may not discern what group of undocumented immigrants it is targeting, there is no doubt it is aimed at people from Hispanic countries. News stories and political rhetoric have detailed the "crises" of people sneaking in from Mexico and Latin America to scam the United States citizens out of their tax dollars.

So being Hispanic is apparently the only requirement for the list of suspects. If you look Hispanic, seem Hispanic or act Hispanic (whatever those qualities may be) your fellow citizens would be able to demand proof of your legitimacy.

Does any of this sound familiar yet? A group of people are clumped together and labeled alien, unwanted in a country. Other citizens are required to spy on their neighbors, looking for telltale signs of being undocumented. Because this group looks different, may engage in a different culture or even speak a different language, it is understood that they do not deserve to reside in this country.

I hope this is starting to sound familiar. You don't need to be a history major to draw the comparisons, and they're frightening.

With the country in economic trouble, scores of people out of work and families falling apart, it is not unusual for people to look for a common enemy. Historically, the United States has looked abroad for wars to fight.

The fight California has picked is not with a foreign enemy, it includes people within our borders. It openly discriminates against U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent, hurts innocent children who won't understand why they can't go to school with their friends anymore, and is a pathetic statement about how very little we have developed.

Arizona followed California's lead in passing the tobacco tax. But we cannot let the fever of racism infect our state with a proposition like Prop 187.

If the only way to unite our community is to fight an enemy, we won't need to look far to find one. Racism is always lurking just around the corner.

Sarah Garrecht is the Wildcat editor in chief and a journalism senior.

Read Next Article