October 1995, Volume 1, Number 4
Hearing on Prop. 87
One year after its approval by a vote of 59 to 41 percent,
California's Prop. 187 remains tied up in court.
There are two distinct cases pending. Sections 7 and 8, which
prohibit tuition free education for illegal aliens in K-12 and in
higher education, is being challenged in a San Francisco state court
by opponents who assert that the denial of free K-12 education to
illegal alien children violates the California Constitution's equal
protection clause. Many observers expect the judge to strike down
A second case is pending in federal court in Los Angeles. All
sections of Prop. 187 are being challenged there as an unlawful
effort by California voters to regulate immigration, which is solely
a federal responsibility. The state of California is defending Prop.
187 on the grounds that the state has the right and responsibility to
allocate its limited resources to provide services to those voters
deem most deserving.
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
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.
If the Prop. 187 case goes to trial, social science research may
take center stage, much as it did in the 1954 US Supreme Court that
ended separate but equal education for blacks and whites. Among the
issues to be resolved are questions such as the role of benefits and
services in attracting illegal immigrants and their families to
California, or encouraging them to stay, the impacts of illegal
immigrants on US citizen and legal immigrant workers, and the effects
of denying services to illegal immigrants on the quantity and quality
of services available to other state residents.
For example, if illegal immigrant children were denied K-12 public
education services, California might argue that, given other
propositions approved by voters, implementing Prop. 187 might
increase the funds available for K-12 education by five percent, or
$1 billion over three to five years.
In Sacramento, a law pushed by Democrats to head off Prop. 187 has
caused more trouble than it solved. In 1993, California enacted a law
that required applicants for drivers' licenses to prove that they are
legal residents. The law was interpreted to make the validity of
drivers' licenses coincide with the length of time the INS permits a
foreigner to be in the US. But visas are often renewed, forcing
Japanese businessmen and foreign students to renew their drivers'
licenses several times, and generating complaints from them about the
time and expense involved .
A California poll found that 55 percent of the state's residents
were "extremely concerned" about illegal immigration, versus about 75
percent who were concerned about AIDS, public schools, and crime.
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.