Room in the Inn?

And you shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the soul of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt. -Exodus 23:9

Though California's anti-immigrant Propo-sition 187 is new, the spirit behind it is not. While the Jewish people were living as exiles in Babylon, the self-promoting, power-hungry Haman

stirred up the people against them. "There is a certain people scattered...in all the provinces of your kingdom," he said to the king. "Their laws are different from those of all other people...so it is not in the king's interest to let them remain" (Esther 3:8).

Similar to Haman's invective against the Jews in Babylon two-and-a-half millennium ago, the passage of Proposition 187 in California stokes the nativist wildfire that is sweeping the country. It seems, as backers had hoped, that Proposition 187 will spur a re-examination of the 1982 Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court decision, when the court ruled that states could not bar immigrant children from public schools. Even though civil rights groups have filed numerous lawsuits challenging 187 and California judges have blocked its implementation until the legal controversy is resolved, its victory by a 3-to-2 margin sends a strong anti-immigrant message to Washington and the rest of the country.

Proposition 187 would exclude undocumented immigrants from welfare benefits and all but emergency health care (even immunization against contagious diseases), ban the children of illegal immigrants-whether these children were U.S. citizens or not-from public schools, and mandate educators and medical providers to deny services to persons "reasonably suspect" of being undocumented. But since illegal immigrants were already ineligible for most public assistance in California, the initiative in reality strikes hardest at their children-who are the poorest and most vulnerable segment of the state's population.

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Sojourners Magazine December 1994-January 1995
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