Prop. 187 Recalled as a Lesson for Unification

June 23, 2014

SACRAMENTO – The California State Senate has approved Senate Resolution 51 to mark June 23, 2014, the 20th anniversary of the qualification of Proposition 187 for the November 1994 ballot, as a day to celebrate California’s diversity and promote a united future. The Senate expressly recognized that California's prosperity is intimately tied to the tenacity, innovativeness, and diversity of its people; and that California has made tremendous progress in recent years in recognizing undocumented immigrants as valued members of society by enacting laws that promote the safety and livelihood of immigrant families, including passage of the California DREAM Act, the TRUST Act, and the Safe and Responsible Drivers Act.

Latino Legislative Caucus Chair Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach) presented SR 51 on the Senate Floor, "Prop 187 was a dark moment in California history and today, on the 20th anniversary of its passage, we remember the pain it caused and look to build a future more embracing of diverse communities and perspectives."

“While California has frequently lost its way it has also repeatedly rebounded. We are a beacon of equality of opportunity and we don’t just end up on the right side of history – we make history for others to follow,” said Senate President pro Tempore-elect Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). 

“Undocumented immigrants are part of the Asian Pacific Islander American community’s story in California,” said Assemblymember Paul Fong (D – San Jose), chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus during the California State Assembly session. “The APIA community is no stranger to discriminatory actions taken by California – from proclamations supporting the Japanese internment during World War II to the Chinese exclusionary laws during the turn of the 20th century, California has ultimately repealed these laws to right the wrongs of the past. Proposition 187 is a stain on our law books, and our work today is the first step towards righting a wrong again.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego spoke in remembrance, “Twenty years ago, a then-failing governor capitalized on people’s fears by promoting a misguided, xenophobic and unconstitutional initiative. Today, we remember Proposition 187 so that we may prevent these types of injustices in the future. It’s time for all Californians to unite and affirm our commitment to equalizing opportunity for all of our communities.”

Proposition 187, the brain-child of anti-immigrant activists led by Governor Pete Wilson in his efforts to secure re-election, was a pernicious and unabashed attempt to incriminate immigrants.

Approved by the voters 59% to 41%, Proposition 187 would have prohibited undocumented immigrants and their citizen children from going to the doctor and accessing the most basic of public services—an education. It would have made every teacher, doctor, social worker, and local police officer mandatory immigration reporters, meaning they would have had to report mothers, fathers and children suspected of being undocumented to federal authorities--turning ordinary Californians into I.N.S. agents for the federal government.

The Proposition 187 campaign was labeled S.O.S.—“Save our State”—as if the state was under siege from marauding hoards here to pillage our communities. The campaign attacked the immigrants who serve as the backbone of our agricultural industry and supply the workforce for our tourist and service industries.

The federal courts quickly ruled that virtually the entire attack on immigrants was unconstitutional and Proposition 187 was never implemented. However, it still remains in the California code books.

A separate bill, Senate Bill 396 (De León), proposes to erase the stain of Proposition 187 from our law books. California will lead the country forward to a brighter day where immigrants are treated with dignity and given an opportunity to thrive


For video footage of the Senate Floor session go to: SR 51 was presented at 1:48 p.m. on Monday, June 23, 2014.

Available for interviews via phone: Successful young adults, who would have been state mandated elementary-school dropouts had Proposition 187 not been found unconstitutional.

To request high resolution photos for use in print or online articles email or


Contact: Jesse Melgar / (916) 651-4033 /