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August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

Hearing on Prop. 187

During a July 26, 1995 hearing, opponents of Prop. 187 told a federal judge in Los Angeles that the measure was unconstitutional, and that she should simply declare Prop. 187 unconstitutional without a trial. Opponents argued that the measure unconstitutionally interfered with the federal government's jurisdiction over immigration policy.

Opponents argued that only the federal government, and not the state government, can take steps designed to reduce illegal immigration. According to one anti-187 attorney, "California has no business, no business at all, saying who may come in and who may go out."

The state of California countered that the purpose of Prop. 187 was to decide how scarce state resources should be allocated among persons who apply for benefits under state-run programs. The state offered the judge a draft letter that would be given to suspected illegal aliens that advises them to either leave the US, or contact the INS to resolve their legal status.

The judge has several options, including declaring part or all of Prop. 187 unconstitutional, and scheduling a trial on the entire initiative or the sections deemed constitutional. That trial is currently scheduled for September.

If the judge declares Prop. 187 unconstitutional, state lawyers say they will file an appeal with the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The group that sponsored Prop. 187 has threatened to offer a $10,000 reward to anyone who can prove that the judge personally hired an illegal alien; Prop. 187 proponents believe that the judge personally opposes Prop. 187.

Legal observers predict the case will reach the US Supreme Court in 1996 or 1997.

Several hundred college and law students are participating in a California Freedom Summer campaign to take testimony from immigrants that Prop. 187 has led to or increased discrimination against them. The first Freedom Summer was in 1964, when college students flooded Mississippi to register Black voters.


Laura Mecoy, "Public not final judge of Prop. 187's merits," Sacramento Bee, July 31, 1995. Peter Hecht, "A Freedom Summer--1990s Style," Sacramento Bee, July 30, 1995. Paul Feldman, "Judge Hints That Prop. 187 May be Unconstitutional," Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1995. Laura Mecoy, "Judge's Remarks buoy Prop. 187 foes' hopes, Sacramento Bee, July 27, 1995. "Opponents to press judge to scuttle Prop. 187 today," July 26, 1995.