I was shocked at the accusation of Nativo Lopez, a school board member from Orange County, that a hidden agenda of anti-Latino racism lay behind my proposed “English for the Children” initiative (La Opinion, 5/21/97). Mr. Lopez has never met me, but I do know that if he had spent any time at all investigating my background, he would have never dared to make such a vile charge.
In 1994, at a time when all too many Republicans and Democrats were supporting Prop. 187, or at least refusing to oppose it, I was one of the measure’s most vehement critics, and my opposition came long before that of Kathleen Brown, Dianne Feinstein, or any of the prominent Democrats running for statewide office that year. I was one of the top featured speakers at the huge 70,000 person anti-187 rally organized in downtown LA by Juan Jose Gutierrez and others, and nearly the only Anglo of any prominence who had the courage to be involved in that event. Through my direct personal efforts, I managed to persuade prominent national Republicans such as Bill Bennett, Jack Kemp, and others to publicly oppose Prop. 187, and I wrote numerous articles for state and national publications against the measure.
More recently, I was one of the key individuals working to oppose the anti-immigrant legislation pushed forward by the Republicans in Congress and endorsed by President Clinton, and it was only through my own efforts and that of a tiny handful of others that the worst aspects of the legislation were blocked.
With all due respect, I believe that my own role in all these matters of great importance to California’s Latino population was far, far greater than that of a local Orange County politician such as Mr. Lopez. Perhaps if Mr. Lopez had been more actively involved in these campaigns, he would have been more aware of my own role.
Reasonable people may differ on matters of policy, and once he reads it, Mr. Lopez may indeed decide to oppose my “English for the Children” initiative. If so, he will be in the company of many of California’s most fanatic anti-immigrant activists, who have now denounced the measure—which increases funding for immigrant education by $50 million per year—as a pro-immigrant give-away program which they will fight at all costs. My own view is that immigrants and their children should be assisted in learning English as rapidly as possible, in order to better their lives and those of all Californians.
Ron K. Unz, Chairman
English for the Children