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October 1999, Volume 6, Number 10

States: California, New York, Texas

California. The federal judge who issued an injunction in 1994 blocking the implementation of Proposition 187 approved a settlement in September 1999 between the state and groups that challenged the initiative, ending litigation—the settlement will block implementation of all parts of Proposition 187 except for those providing penalties to persons caught making false documents. Proposition 187, approved by voters 59-41 percent in 1994, would have created a state-run screening system to prevent unauthorized children from receiving tuition-free K-12 schooling and unauthorized residents from receiving state-funded public benefits.

California law requires two-thirds of the voters to approve new local taxes, including school bond measures. As the number of K-12 students increases, local school boards are proposing new school bonds to accommodate more students. In several cases in southern California, anti-tax groups opposed to additional school bonds are mentioning the role of immigration in creating the need for additional schools, and urging a no vote—they argue that, if legal and illegal immigration were reduced, additional schools and taxes would not be needed. In some cases, residents are opposing new bond measures because school boards refused to implement English instruction in K-12 classrooms after the approval of Proposition 227.

The state has begun to provide matching money for local school bonds, which helps to explain why the approval rate for school bond measures rose to 60 percent in 1998 from 40 percent in the early 1990s.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled on September 28 that only parents, not entire school districts, can apply for waivers that allow students to continue to learn English and other subjects in their native language. Several school districts, including San Francisco, applied for waivers which would allow the district to retain bilingual classes despite the approval of Proposition 227 in 1998. A county judge ruled in 1998 that the state board of education must consider districtwide requests for 227 waivers. The Court of Appeal disagreed in a 3-0 ruling, concluding that the intent of Proposition 227 was "that English instruction will be provided in all cases except those where parental waivers are made." Parental waivers can be granted for students over 10 years old or with special needs.

California Governor Gray Davis vetoed a bill on September 28 that would have eased a 1994 state law requiring immigrants to prove that they are in the US legally before obtaining a California driver's license. The bill's proponents argued that the measure would be good for California because some foreign executives living in California face long delays when they must renew their temporary driver's license. Davis said the proposal would "undermine an important security measure intended to deter fraud and illegal immigration."

New York. Several weeks after three anti-immigration billboards in Brooklyn were removed, another billboard appeared near the Willliamsburg Bridge in New York City which reads: "Because of mass immigration, the U.S. population will exceed half a billion in my lifetime. Help us, Congress. – An American Kid, age 6."

Texas. Texas Governor George W. Bush in September 1999 caused a flap by first asserting in an interview that the federal government should not reimburse states for the cost of caring for illegal migrants, and then reversing his position, claiming he had misunderstood the question. Bush said that some costs incurred by state and local governments to deal with illegal migrants, except for K-12 education for illegal alien children, should be reimbursed. He added that "the most effective use of federal money to stop illegal immigration is at the front end, to stop people from illegally entering our country, not at the back end, by reimbursing states after it has failed to enforce the border."

Local Impacts. The Dallas Morning News in September 1999 profiled immigrant integration in several US cities, emphasizing that continued Mexican immigration has reshaped many cities in less than one generation. Hispanics are about 11 percent of US residents, but many are of child-bearing years--almost 20 percent of the babies born in the US are Hispanic. Furthermore, the head of Mexico's National Population Council says that, "Even under the best of circumstances, including a sound economy and a low birth rate, Mexican migration will continue unabated for the next 10 to 20 years, maybe longer." For the full text see: />
The September 21, 1999 article dealt with Huntington Park, California, a 98-percent Hispanic city in southeast Los Angeles county of 65,000 that may have, according to the mayor, another 25,000 residents who are unauthorized migrants. Median family income is $30,000, compared to $51,000 in Los Angeles county. There are a disproportionate number of immigrant-related businesses, including check-cashing outlets and long-distance telephone exchanges. School drop-out rates are high-- fewer than 40 percent of Huntington Park High's original class of 1998 - 600 of 1,600 students - received diplomas. Fewer than 30 percent of Huntington Park residents own their homes. (Los Angeles county has 9.7 million residents; 40 percent are Mexican-American and five percent have Central American heritage.)

Kennett Square, a city of 6,600 in southeastern Pennsylvania calls itself the mushroom capital of the world—annual mushroom sales are $450 million. Most of the growers have Italian forebears, while most of the pickers are Mexicans from Guanajuato--so many Mexicans are emigrating that, despite high birth rates, some villages in Guanajuato are reporting population decreases of 10 percent in the 1990s.

In 1986, about 3,000 unauthorized Mexicans in Chester County received legal status under the SAW program, which granted immigrant status to unauthorized persons who did at least 90 days of farm work in 1985-86. These men, mostly young, brought their families to the area and, as they settled, became more militant, organizing a strike and march to the state capital in Harrisburg in 1993. The Mexican immigrant population is rising in nearby Avondale, Toughkennamon and New Garden as well.

As the workers got better organized, local allies helped them to obtain better housing, including units for 24 families in the Buena Vista housing project in 1999. The housing, subsidized by the federal and state governments, improves worker living conditions and helps to reduce turnover for growers.

Another story profiled the Morgan County Migrant Program's Amigos de la Familia program in Decatur, located in northern Alabama. The number of Spanish-speaking children in the city of 60,000 schools rose from 27 in 1993 to 302 in 1999. The city imported 20 Mexican teachers.

The proportion of Catholics in the United States is being increased by immigration. When there is an influx of Spanish-speaking workers into Midwestern meatpacking towns, special Spanish-language masses are added. In a report on one Iowa town, it was noted that, by the account of both groups, Hispanic and non-Hispanic mix very little.

The Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study surveyed 5,262 children in San Diego and Miami when they were in middle school, and then surveyed them again at graduation. The CILS concluded that the children of immigrants learned English quickly, preferred English over their parents' language and spoke English well. About 55 million US residents are immigrants or the children of immigrants.

"Ruling on Bilingual Ban Limits Waivers Parents," AP September 28, 1999. Tom Harrigan, "Court approves pact ending battle over anti-immigrant initiative; others take up fight," AP, September 14, 1999. Kate Folmar, "Racial Issues Creep Into Bond Battles," Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1999. Roberto Santiago, "Group rails vs. immigs another billboard unveiled," Daily News, September 8, 1999. Julian Barnes, "Immigration Foe Puts Up Another Billboard," New York Times, September 8, 1999.