Friday, April 19, 2024

Latino Lawmakers Act to Reverse a History of Anti-Immigrant Legislation

blog post 6-24

In California, a new generation of Latino lawmakers is intent on erasing anti-immigrant laws from the history books. Legislation like Proposition 187, which withheld services like healthcare and education from undocumented immigrants, is chief among these laws.

The law has since been struck down as unconstitutional, after it passed with 59% voter approval in 1994. Similar legislation such as Proposition 227, banning bilingual education, were also passed within years of Proposition 187.

Many Californians felt personally attacked by these laws, describing them as xenophobic and racist. The laws also elicited vocal opposition from the public. It was in response to Proposition 187 that Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican-American cartoonist, created the character “Daniel D. Portado,” who satirized the proposition by encouraging “reverse immigration.”

These divisive laws did have some unintended benefits: they led to a surge of Latino voter registration and advocacy. Former leader of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Antonia Hernandez, holds that “It was [Proposition] 187—I cannot overemphasize—that unified the community.”

In the wake of Proposition 187, Latinos have become the largest ethnic group in the state and have doubled their numbers in the Legislature.

Although these pieces of legislation were struck down in the courts, Latino leaders such as Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) are seeking to strike the language of these propositions from statute. Although some argue this is a political move to increase Latino voter turnout, most agree that laws like these deserve no place in the state code, because, as De Leon puts it, “California has come a long way.”

Los Angeles Times