California Proposition 187 Primary Source eText

Primary Source

Citizens walk down a street, in protest of Proposition 187. AP/Wide World Photos. Citizens walk down a street, in protest of Proposition 187. Published by Gale Cengage AP/Wide World Photos
Students gather on a San Francisco street to show their opposition to Proposition 187. Getty Images. Students gather on a San Francisco street to show their opposition to Proposition 187. Published by Gale Cengage Getty Images

Voted into law in 1994 by California voters

Reprinted from Glenn Spencer's American Patrol Report (Web site)

California voters approve a law designed to stop immigrants without visas from receiving public benefits from the state

"The People of California declare their intention … to prevent illegal aliens in the United States from receiving benefits or public services in the State of California."

In 1994, voters in California approved a law designed to stop immigrants without visas, government documents that grant permission for admission to the country, from receiving public benefits from the state, notably medical care and public education. Voters acted through a provision of California's constitution that allows citizens to propose laws and to vote on them, functions normally carried out by the state legislature. The passage of the law reflected widespread anger in California over the issue of "illegal aliens," or people residing in a country without legal authorization. In California, these illegal immigrants were mostly people from Mexico and Central America who entered the state without federal immigration visas to find work on farms. Those in favor of the law argued that such aliens were collecting benefits without paying taxes.

Proposition 187 was one of several official reactions in the last two decades of the twentieth century to the flow of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Many of these immigrants entered the United States without a visa. Opposition to the mostly Latino immigrants was most intense in states bordering Mexico, especially California and Texas, where immigrants entered the country to find work, usually as low-paid farm workers or day laborers. (Day laborers are people who take temporary jobs, for a single day, and are paid by the hour.) The anti-immigrant sentiments of the late twentieth century echoed many of the themes of anti-immigrant feelings a century earlier, which were then directed against immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.

Illegal aliens, as the immigrants were widely known, shared some characteristics of earlier immigrants from countries like Italy: they were mostly Catholics, they did not speak English, and their skin was darker than the dominant northern Europeans. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, immigrants were allowed to enter the United States without documents, while a century later immigration was highly regulated.

Things to remember while reading Proposition 187:

  • In the preface to the Proposition, the authors claimed that the people of California had been harmed financially by illegal aliens using state services, such as free medical care and education. Supporters of Proposition 187 claimed that, at the time of the election, there were 1.6 million illegal aliens in California who received services worth about $3 billion a year. The preface to Proposition 187 did not point out, however, the value of contributions by aliens. By working for low wages in agriculture, construction, and other jobs, illegal aliens kept the price of food and other goods low. Few aliens applied for public welfare if they became unemployed, largely because in doing so they would have exposed themselves to deportation, or being forcibly sent back to their native country. Surveys showed that in relation to the general population, illegal aliens used few public services.
  • Backers of Proposition 187 realized that some of its provisions had already been found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. (In the United States, if a law passed by the legislature violates a provision of the U.S. Constitution, the law cannot be enforced, because the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Whether laws violate the Constitution is a decision usually made by federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court has the final word on whether laws are constitutional.) For example, one provision of Proposition 187 barred the children of illegal aliens from entering public schools. In 1982, the Supreme Court, in a case titled Plyler v. Doe (see entry), had ruled that a similar ban on public education for children of illegal aliens in Texas violated the U.S. Constitution and could not be enforced. Supporters of Proposition 187 hoped that this decision would be reconsidered and overruled by the Supreme Court.
  • The campaign for Proposition 187 was highly political. A Republican politician, Pete Wilson (1933–), strongly endorsed the proposition. Wilson was reelected as governor at least in part because he was identified with the anti-immigrant law. Images of immigrants appeared in many campaign ads, and many Californians were led to believe that immigrants were linked to a slowdown in the state's economy.
  • The authors of Proposition 187 realized that laws affecting the treatment of immigrants were scattered throughout the entire set of California laws. They therefore combed through the laws, finding specific sections of the law to change in order to achieve their larger purpose: to discourage immigrants from coming to California without visas.

This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution.

This initiative measure adds sections to various codes; therefore, new provisions proposed to be added are [noted as such].

PROPOSED LAW

SECTION 1. Findings and Declaration.

The People of California find and declare as follows:

That they have suffered and are suffering economic hardship caused by the presence of illegal aliens in this state.

That they have suffered and are suffering personal injury and damage caused by the criminal conduct of illegal aliens in this state.

That they have a right to the protection of their government from any person or persons entering this country unlawfully.

Therefore, the People of California declare their intention to provide for cooperation between their agencies of state and local government with the federal government, and to establish a system of required notification by and between such agencies to prevent illegal aliens in the United States from receiving benefits or public services in the State of California.

SECTION 2. Manufacture, Distribution or Sale of False Citizenship or Resident Alien Documents: Crime and Punishment.

Section 113 is added to the Penal Code, to read:

113. Any person who manufactures, distributes or sells false documents to conceal the true citizenship or resident alien status of another person is guilty of a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for five years or by a fine of seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000).

SECTION 3. Use of False Citizenship or Resident Alien Documents: Crime and Punishment.

Section 114 is added to the Penal Code, to read:

114. Any person who uses false documents to conceal his or her true citizenship or resident alien status is guilty of a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for five years or by a fine of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000).

SECTION 4. Law Enforcement Cooperation with INS.

Section 834b is added to the Penal Code, to read:

834b. (a) Every law enforcement agency in California shall fully cooperate with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service regarding any person who is arrested if he or she is suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.

(b) With respect to any such person who is arrested, and suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws, every law enforcement agency shall do the following:

(1) Attempt to verify the legal status of such person as a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident, an alien lawfully admitted for a temporary period of time or as an alien who is present in the United States in violation of immigration laws. The verification process may include, but shall not be limited to, questioning the person regarding his or her date and place of birth, and entry into the United States, and demanding documentation to indicate his or her legal status.

(2) Notify the person of his or her apparent status as an alien who is present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws and inform him or her that, apart from any criminal justice proceedings, he or she must either obtain legal status or leave the United States.

(3) Notify the Attorney General of California and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service of the apparent illegal status and provide any additional information that may be requested by any other public entity.

(c) Any legislative, administrative, or other action by a city, county, or other legally authorized local governmental entity with jurisdictional boundaries, or by a law enforcement agency, to prevent or limit the cooperation required by subdivision (a) is expressly prohibited.

SECTION 5. Exclusion of Illegal Aliens from Public Social Services.

Section 10001.5 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

10001.5. (a) In order to carry out the intention of the People of California that only citizens of the United States and aliens lawfully admitted to the United States may receive the benefits of public social services and to ensure that all persons employed in the providing of those services shall diligently protect public funds from misuse, the provisions of this section are adopted.

(b) A person shall not receive any public social services to which he or she may be otherwise entitled until the legal status of that person has been verified as one of the following:

(1) A citizen of the United States.

(2) An alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident.

(3) An alien lawfully admitted for a temporary period of time.

(c) If any public entity in this state to whom a person has applied for public social services determines or reasonably suspects, based upon the information provided to it, that the person is an alien in the United States in violation of federal law, the following procedures shall be followed by the public entity:

(1) The entity shall not provide the person with benefits or services.

(2) The entity shall, in writing, notify the person of his or her apparent illegal immigration status, and that the person must either obtain legal status or leave the United States.

(3) The entity shall also notify the State Director of Social Services, the Attorney General of California, and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service of the apparent illegal status, and shall provide any additional information that may be requested by any other public entity.

SECTION 6. Exclusion of Illegal Aliens from Publicly Funded Health Care.

Chapter 1.3 (commencing with Section 130) is added to Part 1 of Division 1 of the Health and Safety Code, to read:

Chapter 1.3. Publicly-Funded Health Care Services

130. (a) In order to carry out the intention of the People of California that, excepting emergency medical care as required by federal law, only citizens of the United States and aliens lawfully admitted to the United States may receive the benefits of publicly-funded health care, and to ensure that all persons employed in the providing of those services shall diligently protect public funds from misuse, the provisions of this section are adopted.

(b) A person shall not receive any health care services from a publicly-funded health care facility, to which he or she is otherwise entitled until the legal status of that person has been verified as one of the following:

(1) A citizen of the United States.

(2) An alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident.

(3) An alien lawfully admitted for a temporary period of time.

(c) If any publicly-funded health care facility in this state from who

California governor Pete Wilson, a strong proponent of Proposition 187. Getty Images. California governor Pete Wilson, a strong proponent of Proposition 187. Published by Gale Cengage Getty Images
m a person seeks health care services, other than emergency medical care as required by federal law, determines or reasonably suspects, based upon the information provided to it, that the person is an alien in the United States in violation of federal law, the following procedures shall be followed by the facility:

(1) The facility shall not provide the person with services.

(2) The facility shall, in writing, notify the person of his or her apparent illegal immigration status, and that the person must either obtain legal status or leave the United States.

(3) The facility shall also notify the State Director of Health Services, the Attorney General of California, and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service of the apparent illegal status, and shall provide any additional information that may be requested by any other public entity.

(d) For purposes of this section "publicly-funded health care facility" shall be defined as specified in Sections 1200 and 1250 of this code as of January 1, 1993.

SECTION 7. Exclusion of Illegal Aliens from Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Section 48215 is added to the Education Code, to read:

48215. (a) No public elementary or secondary school shall admit, or permit the attendance of, any child who is not a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident, or a person who is otherwise authorized under federal law to be present in the United States.

(b) Commencing January 1, 1995, each school district shall verify the legal status of each child enrolling in the school district for the first time in order to ensure the enrollment or attendance only of citizens, aliens lawfully admitted as permanent residents, or persons who are otherwise authorized to be present in the United States.

(c) By January 1, 1996, each school district shall have verified the legal status of each child already enrolled and in attendance in the school district in order to ensure the enrollment or attendance only of citizens, aliens lawfully admitted as permanent residents, or persons who are otherwise authorized under federal law to be present in the United States.

(d) By January 1, 1996, each school district shall also have verified the legal status of each parent or guardian of each child referred

to in subdivisions (b) and (c), to determine whether such parent or guardian is one of the following:

(1) A citizen of the United States.

(2) An alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident.

(3) An alien admitted lawfully for a temporary period of time.

(e) Each school district shall provide information to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Attorney General of California, and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service regarding any enrollee or pupil, or parent or guardian, attending a public elementary or secondary school in the school district determined or reasonably suspected to be in violation of federal immigration laws within forty-five days after becoming aware of an apparent violation. The notice shall also be provided to the parent or legal guardian of the enrollee or pupil, and shall state that an existing pupil may not continue to attend the school after ninety calendar days from the date of the notice, unless legal status is established.

(f) For each child who cannot establish legal status in the United States, each school district shall continue to provide education for a period of ninety days from the date of the notice. Such ninety day period shall be utilized to accomplish an orderly transition to a school in the child's country of origin. Each school district shall fully cooperate in this transition effort to ensure that the educational needs of the child are best served for that period of time.

SECTION 8. Exclusion of Illegal Aliens from Public Postsecondary Educational Institutions.

Section 66010.8 is added to the Education Code, to read:

66010.8. (a) No public institution of postsecondary education shall admit, enroll, or permit the attendance of any person who is not a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident in the United States, or a person who is otherwise authorized under federal law to be present in the United States.

(b) Commencing with the first term or semester that begins after January 1, 1995, and at the commencement of each term or semester thereafter, each public postsecondary educational institution shall verify the status of each person enrolled or in attendance at that institution in order to ensure the enrollment or attendance only of United States citizens, aliens lawfully admitted as permanent residents in the United States, and persons who are otherwise authorized under federal law to be present in the United States.

(c) No later than 45 days after the admissions officer of a public postsecondary educational institution becomes aware of the application, enrollment, or attendance of a person determined to be, or who is under reasonable suspicion of being, in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws, that officer shall provide that information to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Attorney General of California, and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. The information shall also be provided to the applicant, enrollee, or person admitted.

SECTION 9. Attorney General Cooperation with the INS.

Section 53069.65 is added to the Government Code, to read:

53069.65. Whenever the state or a city, or a county, or any other legally authorized local governmental entity with jurisdictional boundaries reports the presence of a person who is suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws to the Attorney General of California, that report shall be transmitted to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. The Attorney General shall be responsible for maintaining on-going and accurate records of such reports, and shall provide any additional information that may be requested by any other government entity.

SECTION 10. Amendment and Severability.

The statutory provisions contained in this measure may not be amended by the Legislature except to further its purposes by statute passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two-thirds of the membership concurring, or by a statute that becomes effective only when approved by the voters.

In the event that any portion of this act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect any other provision or application of the act, which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end the provisions of this act are severable.

What happened next …

After a majority of voters approved Proposition 187, opponents went to federal court and asked the judge to block the state from putting the proposition into effect. The judge agreed, and the Supreme Court did not revisit its earlier decision.

In 2000, a pair of social scientists, R. Michael Alvarez (1964–) and Tara L. Butterfield, analyzed voting patterns for Proposition 187 and concluded that the underlying issue was the California economy, rather than racial distaste for Latinos or religious prejudice. Writing in the journal Social Science Quarterly, Alvarez and Butterfield wrote: "Voters … blamed illegal immigrants for the state's poor economic condition…. We found that voters who perceive themselves as threatened financially by illegal immigrants are more likely to support the measure and those voters who are racially similar to the immigrants being attacked oppose the measure more than other racial groups…. Specifically, Hispanics strongly opposed the proposition and blacks supported the proposition."

Alvarez and Butterfield's same analysis concluded that "Governor (Pete) Wilson was reelected during bad economic times by focusing his campaign on illegal immigrants and blaming them for the state's drastic financial situation, shifting the focus of the election away from his failure to improve the state's economy. This … was an important factor in the passage of Proposition 187."

Did you know …

  • Even as Proposition 187 was addressing the problem of illegal aliens in California, the number of people entering the state from Mexico and Central America was actually in decline. A study by the Policy Institute of California in 1996 showed that as the California economy slowed between 1990 and 1993, part of a nationwide decline in economic activity, the number of illegal immigrants entering California fell from around 200,000 a year in the 1980s to around 125,000 a year, and to under 100,000 in 1992. In effect, the national economy had already accomplished what Proposition 187 set out to do.

For More Information

Books

Chiswick, Barry R. Illegal Aliens: Their Employment and Employers. Kalamazoo, MI: W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 1988.

Haines, David W., and Karen E. Rosenblum, eds. Illegal Immigration in America: A Reference Handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Long, Robert Emmet, ed. Immigration. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1996.

Nevins, Joseph. Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the "Illegal Alien" and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Periodicals

Alvarez, R. Michael, and Tara L. Butterfield. "The Resurgence of Nativism in California?: The Case of Proposition 187 and Illegal Immigration." Social Science Quarterly (March 2000): p. 167.

Martis, Nancy H. "Prop 187: Illegal Aliens. Ineligibility for Public Services." California Journal (1994).

Web Sites

"Alien Nation?" Online Newshour. March 26, 1996 (transcript). (accessed on March 1, 2004).

"Proposition 187: Text of Proposed Law." Glenn Spencer's American Patrol Report. http://www.americanpatrol.com/REFERENCE/prop187text.html (accessed on March 3, 2004).

"Study: Illegal Immigration to California Ebbing." Refuse & Resist! September 24, 1996. http://www.refuseandresist.org/imm/ebb.html (accessed on March 1, 2004).