Senator Wants Schools To Teach About 1930s Deportations


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - State Sen. Gil Cedillo is trying to shine some light on a shocking but little known episode in American history. He faces an uphill battle.

The Los Angeles Democrat is the author of a bill that would require public junior high and high schools to teach students about the deportation of about 2 million Hispanics, including 400,000 Californians, to Mexico during the Great Depression.

Elementary schools would have the option of including information about the deportations in social science instruction.

The deportation program was started in 1929 by the Hoover administration, supposedly as a way to get rid of illegal immigrants and open up jobs during the Depression. Most of those rounded up and sent to Mexico were American citizens or legal immigrants, critics say.

Cedillo calls it "an embarrassment to all Americans."

"Those that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it," he said. "That would be another tragedy upon a tragedy. ... The way to avoid that is through education."

Cedillo's bill is scheduled to be considered Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

That committee shelved an earlier version of the legislation last year as part of an effort to hold down spending. A committee analysis said the bill could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in state costs to reimburse school districts for a new mandate.

Cedillo said he might be able to "tweak the language regarding what's mandatory, what's optional or available" to get the bill out of committee.

Even if the bill clears the Legislature, it faces a possible veto by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who turned down similar legislation in 2006 that was introduced by then-Sen. Joe Dunn, a Democrat from Garden Grove.

The Republican governor says he has consistently rejected bills that require mention of specific events or groups of people in social science instruction.

"I continue to believe that the state should refrain from being overly prescriptive in school curriculum beyond establishing rigorous academic standards and frameworks," he said in vetoing the Dunn legislation.

Schwarzenegger also vetoed a Dunn bill in 2005 that would have
set up a fund to pay reparations to victims of the deportations. But the governor signed another Dunn measure that same year that officially apologized for the deportations.

The requirement for junior and senior high schools would kick in when the state Board of Education adopts new social science textbooks and curriculum frameworks. Cedillo said the board is going through that process now, which makes the bill timely.

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