CUPERTINO -- Chinese-Americans were exhorted Sunday to redouble their opposition to the proposed California constitutional amendment that would reinstate affirmative action in public universities.
If passed by the Legislature and then by state voters, Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 would jeopardize their children's chances of being admitted to state universities, opponents told more than 150 people gathered at a "Stop SCA 5" forum at the Cupertino Community Center.
"It would be a serious mistake to let the Latino caucus secure the vote of all Democrats," said Ward Connerly, author of Proposition 209, which SCA 5 would overturn. Connerly's proposition outlawed consideration of race in University of California and California State University admissions. He called SCA 5 "a violation of all democratic principles."
Frank Lee, of the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, said, "No student should be favored or degraded because of race." He vowed that the institute would sue if the initiative passed.
Proponents have said that SCA 5 would simply allow admissions officers to consider applicants' race.
The controversial anti-affirmative-action activist and former University of California regent, dismissed that claim.
"I guarantee you the number of Asians will be diminished and the number of Latinos will be increased" if SCA 5 passes, said Connerly. "That's the whole objective."
Many dire warnings
Besides rallying opposition to the bill, Sunday's forum sponsored by the San Francisco-based Chinese-American Institute for Empowerment also served to drum up votes for local Republican candidates and contributions to GOP candidates elsewhere.
Sensing the potential political gain in this issue, the top GOP leaders of both chambers addressed the session, which was conducted in Mandarin and English.
Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, warned that the bill could also restrict parent choice in K-12 schools, by influencing admission to charter schools, what he called laboratories of innovation.
SCA 5 "takes away the incentive," said Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia. "Why work hard when that hard work will not be rewarded?"
She urged participants not to relent on their pressure, even if the bill is set aside. "It's like at the grocery store. Once it's on the shelf, it is always for sale."
With eight Asian-American legislators under heavy pressure from Chinese-American parents, the bill's passage in the Assembly isn't certain. In addition, three Asian-American senators who supported the bill have changed their minds and asked Assembly Speaker John Perez to halt it.
Lee urged against compromise.
The safeguard against SCA 5 ever passing is to diminish the Democrats' legislative majority, said Mei Mei Ho, president of a Los Angeles County GOP group. Republican legislators oppose SCA 5. She suggested Silicon Valley Chinese-Americans "adopt" GOP candidates -- sending them contributions -- in the Central Valley and Southern California swing districts.
In 1996, Proposition 209 passed with support of 61 percent of Asian-American voters. But since then, the Asian-American population has swelled, in part from wealthy immigrants to Silicon Valley who have a starkly different history from Asians descended from immigrant laborers of the early 20th century.
And admissions have become more selective at elite colleges, including UC's Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses, which many immigrant Asians perceive as the most desirable UCs.
Three years ago, Professor William Jiang of San Jose State University said he found that Asian-American applicants needed to score 400 points higher on the SAT test in order to be offered a slot at an Ivy League college.
If Democrats don't watch out, affirmative action could do for them what Proposition 187 did for Republicans in 1994, warned Shichang Miao of Foster City. The anti-illegal immigration proposition, which was passed by voters then invalidated by the courts, alienated Latinos from the Republican Party for a generation.
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.