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Jewish World Review /July 13, 1998 / 19 Tamuz, 5758

Don Feder

Don Feder Why are we scared
of obnoxious 'activists?'

MARIO OBLEDO KNOWS how to handle "racists" and their "hateful, divisive" rhetoric -- with threats of violence. The Hispanic activist has won a famous victory over free speech.

The object of his rage was a billboard, erected on the California/Arizona border, that advised: "Welcome to California, the Illegal Immigration State. Don't Let This Happen to Your State."

Obledo put out a press release announcing that he would set fire to the billboard or deface it on June 27 at 2 p.m. No civil libertarians raised their voices in protest. Officers of the law were equally unresponsive.

How others view the controversy
Bowing to intimidation, the company that rented the billboard space to the California Coalition for Immigration Reform returned its fee and removed the offending message.

The coalition's leader, Barbara Coe, wants to know what was racist about her communication, which didn't mention race but decried a growing problem that everyone whose head isn't firmly embedded in the sand can perceive.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates the number of illegal aliens grows by 275,000 a year. In 1993, California spent $1.4 billion to incarcerate "undocumented aliens" and educate the children of illegals. That year, illegals accounted for two-thirds of the births in Los Angeles County hospitals and half of the kids in its juvenile courts.

Casualties mount in the war to control our borders and safeguard our national identity. Last week, two Border Patrol agents were killed in gunfights near Brownsville, Texas -- an area The New York Times calls "a territory transformed into a combat zone, as officers pursue drug smugglers as well as people moving illegal immigrants across the border."

The names of the agents who died defending us from this invasion? Ricardo Salinas and Susan Rodriguez.

But don't suggest that America has an illegal-immigration problem. That would be racist, hateful and divisive, and cause Mario Obledo to reach for his acetylene torch.

Obledo's resume includes service as California's director of health and welfare and a stint as president of the nation's largest Hispanic organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Politicians make ritual pilgrimages to his Sacramento office. California Lt. Gov. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis calls Obledo "one of my heroes."

Republicans are also in a pandering mode when it comes to America's fastest-growing minority. Speaking to 6,000 delegates at LULAC's Dallas convention earlier this month, Texas Gov. George Bush Jr. trumpeted his support for bilingual education -- disastrous for Spanish-speaking kids, but beloved of this Hispanic organization.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who's in disfavor with LULAC for his opposition to quotas and support for welfare reform, was grudgingly allowed to speak as a reward for pushing a plebiscite on Puerto Rican statehood. LULAC is the editorial page of The Village Voice set to a salsa beat.

Hispanic activists bristle at imagined insults and reject stereotypes -- while striving to perpetuate them. LULAC officials recently descended on Washington demanding amnesty for another 350,000 who've infiltrated our borders.

Don't Latino Americans pay taxes? Do they enjoy subsidizing lawbreakers who bring poverty, disease and violence in their wake? Does ethnic solidarity justify the impoverishment of the host country and loss of its national identity?

Obledo and LULAC don't speak for all Hispanics. Over 30 percent of Latino voters in California backed Proposition 187, overwhelmingly enacted in 1994 (judicially nullified since), which denied all but emergency services to illegals and their children.

In a July 1 article in The Wall Street Journal, former Democratic Rep. Herman Badillo explained why he switched to the GOP. Democratic policies, Badillo charged, "harm minorities by permitting students to graduate from college without college-level skills, allowing crime to go unpunished and making welfare an absolute right regardless of one's ability to work."

Domestic tranquillity in the next century will depend in part on whether Badillo or Obledo is the face of Hispanic leadership.

Coe promises to put up other billboards; Obledo promises to burn them down. But is that enough to silence her? Perhaps he'd like to make a bonfire of her literature, as well. Then, all he'll need to complete the picture is a Charlie Chaplin mustache and an armband.


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©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.