Calif. State Senator Wants Prop 187's Remnants Removed From Law

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 05, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

How many ridiculous, outdated, or otherwise unless laws remain on the books in any given state? Here in the golden-est of states, they may still be legion. But if California State Sen. Kevin de León is successful, the last vestiges of the one of the most troubling, Proposition 187, won't be one of them.


For those now practicing who are too young to remember, or for any who just prefer to forget, Prop 187 was passed with the support of then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994.

A divisive and controversial law, the proposition required reporting by teachers, police, and health care professions on the immigration status of children and others they came in contact with. Public services to these people, including children, would then be cut off.

According to the ACLU, a final ruling finding Prop 187 unconstitutional was issued in March 1998. Judge Mariana Pfaelzer found the state law in the area of immigration was preempted by federal law.

Prop 187 in 2014

So why now? Why the fuss and attention on a law mercifully declared dead 16 years ago?

Sen. de León wants the remaining language of the law that still exists in the Education and Welfare and Institutions Codes (Sec. 10001.5) and the Health and Safety Code (Sec. 130) erased. In addition, there are criminal penalties found in the law as well, in Sections 113, 114, and 834(b) of the California Penal Code. Reports on de León's proposed bill, S.B. 396, don't focus much on the Penal Code section, making this appear to be a largely symbolic undertaking. De León says it is, and that is the point.

"We think that symbolically it's a very powerful gesture to all Californians that we will remove and completely erase this part of our troubled history with immigrants," de León said during a June 4 press conference, according to The Fresno Bee.

The Last Word

As is often the case, California was at the forefront of new legislation, passing Prop 187 many years before the hotly contested SB 1070 in Arizona, not to mention copycat statutes in states like Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah. State legislators should have looked to the fate of Prop 187, rather than suffering defeat after defeat to (at minimum) large portions of their own draconian immigration laws. Instead, time, resources, and political capital was wasted on these efforts, the exact things these laws were supposed to save.

As we have always heard, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. We just hope that by erasing the last vestiges of Prop 187, we aren't condemning ourselves to making the same mistake again after those who remember how the law tore through the state the first time we tried to "fix" immigration are gone.

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