Sunday, August 19

Scapegoating fails to cure economic ills


Mosun Lawrence Mah-Andujo is a member of the UCLA community.

By Mosun Lawrence Mah-Andujo


Proposition 187, an initiative barring illegal immigrants from
the use of public educational and medical services, is a reflection
of an American political sham, diverting responsibility of
America’s depressed economy, poorly afforded public educational
system, and inner-city crime to an individual or an individual
group. The canon of American individualism not only prescribes
being independent, but presents a false notion that individual
groups are the independent source of social fatigues.

The tendency to blame the non-represented and underrepresented
for the economic or "moral" degradation of American society is
expressed in legislation like Proposition 187 (which I refer to as
Operation Scapegoat). The initiative attempts to curb illegal
immigration by creating laws that would not allow illegal
immigrants from ever surviving in the "land of the free."

If undocumented children and parents are not given an
opportunity to be educated, they will be unable to improve their
poor economic condition. If non-native children and parents are
denied medical treatment until seriously ill, they will either die
because of pneumonia or die of impoverishment because of an
inability to work.

Initiatives resembling Proposition 187 presuppose and thus blame
the undocumented immigrant for overuse of public services, crime,
inadequate education, and the rise in unemployment. This
point-of-view is simplistic and narrow-minded.

Legislation arises for political, bureaucratic and fiscal
reasons, but it essentially arises from one mentality – "we have to
take care of our people first." The Reagan and Bush administrations
(1980-92) took care of their people first and in those twelve
years, many political decisions were made to undermine the ability
of the underrepresented African-American, Latino and Asian
communities from succeeding economically.

The Reagan and Bush administrations spearheaded the systematic
cut of Federal Aid for many of the programs that help individuals
of the inner-city with the pretense that such programs were not
needed. In 1980, funding for the Comprehensive Employment Training
Act (C.E.T.A.) was cut and the General Revenue Sharing program
which assisted local government was eliminated.

Federal housing programs have been cut 80 percent since 1980. In
addition, their terms were successful in creating more part-time
jobs at the expense of full-time jobs.

In consequence of these cutbacks, public policy has successfully
created a greater gap between the rich and the poor. Peter Kwong, a
journalist for the L.A. Times revealed that in 1992 these
reductions translated to "[an] L.A. [where] 40 to 50 percent of all
African-American men are unemployed." These reductions also led to
40,000 teenagers out of school and unemployed. Furthermore, these
percentages do not include the thousands of unemployed,
undocumented workers who live invisibly throughout L.A.

Subsequently, people ask why there are no jobs and why public
health services and classrooms are overcrowded. The fact is that
elected officials have chosen to ignore the demands of segments of
our society.

The 1992 elected Clinton administration has jumped onto the
scapegoat wagon by creating legislation which attacks the invisible
Central American, Mexican and Latino communities. Clinton began
with NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement or Operation
Scapegoat I), which was not only effective in harming American
union’s bargaining power, but was sold to the American public by
creating fears and contempt for any immigrant that crossed the
Mexican/American border.

For instance, during the NAFTA debates, I asked an acquaintance
what he thought of NAFTA. I was greatly offended to hear him say,
"I wish they would put machine guns all across the border. I’m sick
of immigrants taking my hard-earned tax money." I am a child of two
immigrants – my mother is from Mexico and my father is from
China.

NAFTA and Proposition 187 are initiatives that don’t "save
states." They only serve to create an "alien invaders" drama and
fear, which effectively scapegoats immigrants and displaces the
injustice of the American government’s refusal to better education,
community services and employment services for individuals of the
inner city.

These initiatives are false. If you want to improve schools, you
have to put money into schools and build schools, not reduce the
pay of teachers and blockade the doors with "No Immigrants Allowed"
signs. If you want crime to decrease, jobs must be made accessible
so that individuals don’t have to steal for their bread.

My proposal is to stop pointing the finger and start
constructive measures.

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