For those of you not already aware, our initiative campaign and all of California’s immigrant children received an early Christmas present last week, when the Secretary of State’s Office officially announced that a sufficient number of the nearly 800,000 signatures which we gathered had been found valid to qualify our initiative for the June 2, 1998 ballot. After 30 years of consistent failure, “bilingual education” will largely vanish from California five months from today.
When we first began our effort nearly a year ago, no one expected us to have any chance of success. Even if we gathered the necessary signatures, there was a widespread expectation that our initiative would become the third in a disastrous series of ethnically-divisive political “wedge” initiatives, separating Californian from Californian and pushing our multi-ethnic society to the edge of direct conflict by playing into the hands of extremist elements from both sides. Virtually no elected Democrat or Republican would support our proposal. But over the past several months, our effort has gathered enormous backing among ordinary Californians, with all statewide polls showing overwhelming support across all ethnic, ideological, and political lines. The only “wedge” has been to separate the politicians of both parties, who continue to hide from a “controversial” issue, from the ordinary people of our state, who see no controversy but only common sense.
After years of divisive initiatives, we now have an opportunity to reunify our fractured society around “English for the Children.” Reduced to a single sentence, our initiative would simply ensure that all the little immigrant children in California are sent to school and taught English so that they can become successful members of American society—which should be the most uncontroversial proposal imaginable. Those ethnic activist groups such as MALDEF who continue to oppose this policy, for whatever reasons, are attempting to do a grave disservice to their own self-proclaimed constituency. It is hard to imagine any measure which will have greater immediate benefit for California’s immigrant children than our proposal.
Supporting such a universal public good, and reestablishing ethnic harmony in our state, should be the foremost New Year’s Resolution for all of us. Let’s stand firm and work to recreate the Golden State which we all remember.