Prop. 187 lives on today in a surprising way

Article subtitle: 
A generation later, the controversial measure continues to shape California politics.
Article author: 
Roxana Kopetman
Article publisher: 
Orange County Register
Article date: 
31 October 2014
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

[...] Proposition 187 – a measure Californians overwhelmingly voted into law on Nov. 8, 1994 – was never enacted. The law would have denied public services, including public education and non-emergency health care, to immigrants living in the state illegally. This summer, state legislators officially wiped it from the books, calling it the “most mean spirited and un-American” measure in the state’s history.

But the legacy of Prop. 187 lives on. And the people initially targeted – Latinos in general and undocumented immigrants in particular – are among the biggest beneficiaries.

“In the long run, it did us a lot of good,” said Amin David, a longtime Latino advocate and founder of Los Amigos of Orange County.

“It sparked an ignition, a fire, to do what we wanted to do but were not able to do,” he added. “And, boy, it took us many years, but what a turnaround.”

This year, Latinos are expected to surpass non-Hispanic whites as California’s single largest demographic ...

The initiative was called the “Save Our State” campaign. It came at a time when California was struggling to recover from a recession, as the economy shifted away from defense jobs and more toward the service sector.

The perception among many was that immigrants living in California without permission – “illegal” aliens as they were called then and are still labeled today by the U.S. government – were a drain on the economy and on society. The California Legislative Analyst Office estimated that passage of Prop. 187 would save the state up to $200 million annually ...

Luis Alejo was a college student in 1994. His grandparents had come to the U.S. from Mexico through the bracero guest worker program, and his parents picked strawberries in California’s Central Valley until they returned to school and pursued careers. 

Today, Alejo is an asssemblyman representing Watsonville ...

Sen. Ricardo Lara, chairman of the California Latino Caucus, remembers his parents – who, for a time, were unauthorized immigrants – telling him that if they don’t come home from work, he should go “to your tíos’ house.”

“I thought that was normal growing up,” said Lara, D-Bell Gardens, whose district includes part of Long Beach ...

California is one of four states where whites are no longer the majority.

It is home to more than 10 million immigrants, more than any other state. Most are here legally – 47 percent are naturalized U.S. citizens and another 26 percent have other legal status, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The rest are here illegally.

Overall, immigration to California has slowed. It increased by 1.3 million in the 2000s, compared to 2.4 million in the 1990s. Nationally, the number of white births were outnumbered by minority births for the first time in 2012, the U.S. Census reported.

California reached that point more than 20 years ago ...

CAIRCO Research

Ballotpedia - California Proposition 187, Illegal Aliens Ineligible for Public Benefits (1994)

[...] It came in the middle of a deep recession in California and was popular partly because the fiscal estimate from the California Legislative Analyst's Office said that it would save the state about $200 million/year ...

The ballot title was: Illegal Aliens. Ineligibility for Public Services. Verification and Reporting. Initiative Statute.


  • Makes illegal aliens ineligible for public social services, public health care services (unless emergency under federal law), and public school education at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels.
  • Requires various state and local agencies to report persons who are suspected illegal aliens to the California Attorney General and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. Mandates California Attorney General to transmit reports to Immigration and Naturalization Service and maintain records of such reports.
  • Makes it a felony to manufacture, distribute, sell or use false citizenship or residence documents

Proposition 187's approval was the first time that any American state passed legislation related to immigration ...

The day after Proposition 187 was approved by the state's voters, several groups filed federal lawsuits against it, including the Mexican-American Legal Defense/Education Fund (MALDEF), the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the ACLU ...