The OC Weekly
By GABRIEL SAN ROMAN Thursday, Mar 7 2013
Long before enlisting herself in Orange County’s labor wars, back when she was a high-school student at Mater Dei in Santa Ana, Denise Velasco got her first taste of political discourse. The polarizing winds of California’s anti-immigrant Proposition 187 were still gusting after its passage at the state ballot box in 1994, and Velasco was sitting in Spanish class when her instructor raised the issue. A white girl with impeccable Spanish spoke up. “Bueno, yo pienso que los ilegales no tienen derecho,” she said, “porque nuestros papás pagan impuestos.”
Translation: Illegals have no right to be here because our parents pay taxes.
Velasco, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, was upset by what she heard. Overcoming her shyness, she raised her hand. “The people you’re talking about look like me!” The rebuttal may not have caused much of a stir in the classroom, but it ignited a sense of personal dignity in Velasco, one that has guided the rest of her life.
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