While Prop 187 was a 1994 ballot referendum in California, it's genesis started with the 1986 amnesty. After the amnesty solidified the status of illegal Mexican immigrants in Mexico, the hispanic population in California experienced a baby boom as fertility jumped from 3.2 to 4.4. Amnesty also gave new illegals the idea that if they jump the border, a later amnesty will await them (like tax amnesty programs backfiring). The problem of illegal immigration depressing lower skilled occupation's wages was exacerbated by the early '90s recession, and old Pat Buchanan ran his '92 insurgent campaign vs. Bush 41 with immigration reduction as a primary plank. His message resonated, and while the national politicians did not pay attention, Californians did. After only eight years, Californians had seen enough change in the schools, neighborhoods and stress to their social services that they felt they needed to take control. Prop 187 was titled "Save our State", and through the ballot, was Californians trying to control their destiny. It would have denied services and schooling to illegals and children of illegals, requiring proof of legal residence. In other words, requiring people to prove they were not lawbreakers. In '94 the Prop 187 referendum was passed by a 3-2 margin, and Gov. Pete Wilson rode that and a recovering economy to re-election. Sadly, this stood no chance of sticking around in our system.
Californians did not expect the Feds to do their job as they had not enforced the border well since '65. The law was technically a passive or reactive means of dealing with illegal immigration (or infiltration). The Feds would be in charge of immigration, but if they failed to do their job, California's state agencies would properly administer services to citizens only. President Clinton was not going to enforce any immigration laws, and he was part of the crew that united to oppose the bill. It is a hodgepodge of the coalition of the left, from this site:
Opponents of the Proposition 187 included the California Teachers Association, California Labor Association, California Medical Association, State League of Women Voters, California State Employees Association, Los Angeles City Council, President Bill Clinton, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and the democratic candidate for governor Kathleen Brown.
Now it seems odd that a state that was going through stress due to illegal immigration, where services and agencies were being strained, would find support from those very agencies and institutions being stretched by illegal immigration. Those groups have nothing in common but being on the left. They everything to gain by importing new leftist voters used to a socialist state system.
That coalition was depressed by the will of the people, but as we continuously learned, the will of the people only matters when it supports a leftist crusade. An old appointee of President Jimmy Carter made sure Prop 187 met its death. She hinted at it in 1995. She later killed it in 1997 (NY Times here, LA Times here). Side note: Notice how the LA Times is far more sympathetic to Prop 187 compared to the NY Times. Proximity helps compared to the cathedral. Judge Mariana Pfaelzer, who served in private practice for decades never acting as a judge until Carter's appointment, ruled:
Judge Pfaelzer rested her ruling on what is called the federal "preemption doctrine." Article VI of the U.S. Constitution contains the Supremacy Clause. It holds that laws passed by Congress are the supreme law of the land and that, if they conflict with laws passed by the various states, the state laws are invalid. Under the authority of the Supremacy Clause, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that federal laws can "preempt" state laws. For example, the power to regulate interstate commerce is given to Congress under the Constitution. If a state were to pass a law trying to regulate interstate commerce, that law would be preempted because Congress already exercises its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce and the state laws could conflict with federal law. Preemption does not only apply to commerce matters, but to areas traditionally left to federal control including bankruptcy, patent and trademark, admiralty regulation, and immigration.
What I find interesting is that California's Prop 187 was not about immigration enforcement or patrolling the border, but about how state agencies would administer programs. Judge Pfaelzer even says that the California laws do not conflict with immigration and that the Prop 187 legislation was a scheme to reduce immigration. The new rules would merely check eligibility. We go through this non-stop when we use government services that are tied to income, yet no one says that those state agencies are infringing on the IRS' rights and authority. A scheme is one thing, and a scheme is not an infringement of rights if a byproduct of that scheme is to discourage people from breaking the law. Prop 187 wouldn't remove illegals; it would have just made it tougher for illegals to live in California after breaking the law. This is classic Humpty Dumpty "a law means what I mean it to mean" behavior from a lefty. Judge Pfaelzer had her orders from the same crowd that had the California Teachers Association trying to block Prop 187 despite being one of the hardest hit groups by illegal immigration, "Our side must win".
Scattered throughout the aftermath articles in the NY Times and LA Times are mentions that Prop 187 would end up in the Supreme Court. It did not. That ruling would have been a truly huge ruling in our modern history as it would have emboldened other Southwestern US states to pass similar legislation. It might have also helped Arizona when they recently passed and then had partially blocked the check IDs for illegals legislation, which was somewhat overturned. Why did Judge Pfaelzer delay her decision until late fall of 1997 if she was hinting at her ruling in '95? Gov. Pete Wilson would be the reason. Prop 187 was appealed up the chain by Gov. Wilson, but his term was up come January of 1999. He was replaced by Gray Davis who later asked for mediation on the ruling and then quietly withdrew the state's appeal in summer of '99; his first year in office. The Supreme Court never got a chance to hear the case. Mission accomplished for the left. It's not about policy and good governance. It's about winning at all costs, future be damned. Adios California.