Open Thread for Wednesday
Proposition 187 included several additions to the law, falling into two categories.
* All law enforcement agents who suspect that a person who has been arrested is in violation of immigration laws must investigate the detainee's immigration status, and if they find evidence of illegality they must report it to the attorney general of California, and to the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Local governments are prohibited from doing anything to impair the fulfillment of this requirement. The attorney general must keep records on all such cases and make them available to any other government entity that wishes to inspect them.
* No one may receive public benefits until they have proven their legal right to reside in the country. If anyone applies for benefits and is suspected by government agents of being illegal, those agents must report in writing to the enforcement authorities. Emergency medical care is exempted as required by federal law but all other medical benefits have the same test as above. Primary and secondary education is explicitly included.
Governor Pete Wilson was a prominent supporter. Opponents included State Senator Art Torres, who referred to Prop. 187 as "the last gasp of white America in California." The proposition came before voters on the November 8, 1994 general election, where it received 59% of the vote. It became law the next day. While its prominent advocates were political conservatives, some liberals (such as Los Angeles-based radio talk-show host Tom Leykis) also favored it, on the grounds that making life more difficult for illegal immigrants might result in fewer of them entering the state, creating labor shortages which could drive up wages for the lowest-paid workers. Meanwhile, some prominent conservatives, like businessman and failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz, opposed the initiatve.
On October 15, between 70,000 and 250,000 people, primarily Latino, marched in downtown Los Angeles against the measure.
Its constitutionality was immediately challenged by several lawsuits. On November 11, 1994, federal judge Matthew Byrne issued a temporary restraining order against it, on grounds that it exceeded state authority in the federal realm of immigration. The case worked its way through the courts. The multiple cases were consolidated and brought before judge Mariana Pfaelzer. In 1998, newly elected Governor Gray Davis (who had opposed the proposition) had the case brought before mediation. Following this, he dropped the appeals process before the courts, effectively killing the law.
Some political analysts cite Wilson's embrace of Prop. 187 as a reason for the California Republican Party's failure to win-over Latino voters.