Remembering Prop 187

Last week in class we seen a documentary film called “Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary” The film was created by teacher Laura Simon in 1997 in light of the conversational issue proposition 187.
In order to refresh everyone’s memory proposition 187  was passed 16 years ago this week on Nov 8, 1994.
More after the jump
Under proposition 187, illegal immigrants would be denied education, non-emergency health care and other government benifits. (Racism chg 187 A10)

Simon made the film to depict how prop 187 affected her students and the community. The film focused on the children of  Hoover Elementary, a school a few blocks away from MacArthur Park.  Many of her students were undocumented, or had parents that were undocumented. The area,  as many might know has a large concentration of immigrants.  Mexicans and Central Americans make up most of the population in the area.  Most Central American’s arrived in the 1980s seeking political asylum from their war stricken countries.   At the time the issues that plagued the  MacArthur Park area were at their peak. The images in the film portray the harsh reality of drugs, gang infestation, and crime in the 90s.
Simon also focuses on a motivated young girl named Myra this little girl had big dreams of being a lawyer and helping her community however, her status never let her pursue that dream. Simon really had high hopes for Myra and wanted her to succeed but the risk of proposition 187 at the time had many immigrants scared.
Myra and her family lived in a one room apartment across the street from MacArthur Park. Myra’s  mother was a  Salvadorian immigrant who was struggling working several jobs just to pay the rent.
Myra was taken out of school a few times when her father got killed and again when her mother took her and the family possibly back to El Salvador where they were never heard of again. If you are interested in watching the film you most likely will have to get it at a University library or possibly Los Angles County Library.
Watching this film made me remember a time I had forgotten.  When proposition 187 passed I was 13-years old and in 7th grade.  Back then I actually did not really know what the proposition meant. I though it was against any Mexicans and could possibly lead to deportation. I did get to participate in a walk-out that occurred at the school. A huge group of mostly Latino kids left school and marched down the main streets for a few miles in protest.  Back then I was not aware how unfair the proposition really was. Fortunately in  late 1997  prop 187 was found to be unconstitutional and never enforced.

U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer has said again that regulating immigration is an exclusively federal responsibility. She made the pronouncement Wednesday in a final ruling that the ballot measure is unconstitutional. The judge’s decision should be allowed to close a sad and divisive chapter in California’s political history.” Los Angeles Times”  15  Nov. 1997

My question is:  Does anybody have any memories regarding prop 187?
P.S A special  MacArthur Park series coming sometime when school ends =)

14 thoughts on “Remembering Prop 187

  1. I remember the HUGE march down Cesar Chavez going through Boyle Heights, so many people in the streets and folks walking out of their houses to join in. My whole family was marching and so was everyone elses. The march was all ages, including little abuelitas. There was a guy with all these pinatas and one of Pete Wilson that was getting totally bashed! Then in Downtown, the waves of marchers never stopped, folks just kept coming. It was the hugest march I’d been in and I didn’t see anything like it again until the first march against HR4437 in March 2006.
    The fury around 187 (and the Zapatista uprising) helped fuel a Chicano cultural renaissance in the 90s with artists, bands, social spaces and pirate radio, lots of it centered in Highland Park. Later, a lot of this activity would get gentrified out of the area.
    Also, it suddenly became cool again to reclaim your paisa roots and at parties folks started playing cumbias and banda which before that, you didn’t really hear.
    Anyways, that’s what I can remember for now…

  2. Thank you for that Chim.In 1994 it had been a little over five, six years that immigrants had been permanent residents when they applied for amnesty in 1986 IRCA. To become a citizen you would have to have been a perm resisent for five years plus a few other qualifcations. Many people rushed to become citizens after that prop however, before that many Latinos did not vote. I think you are on point when you say that finally after that incident people started embracing their paisa roots.It didnt seem like there was much pride before or people were ashamed and needed to act American.

  3. I don’t remember anything from when this happened. But I do know that I attended Hoover Elem. for s short while when my fam lived in Pico Union back in 91 -93. By the time the prop hit, we were living in Watts and from what I remember, everything was business as usual. No marches, protest or anything. It was like it never happened. I saw that doc in a Chicano/a studies class last year and the conversation was about the causes and what it signified. A lot of people forget that raza that could vote supported the law in big numbers too. More than 10 yrs later and that shit is still going on and getting worse. It took me years to realize that I’m the reason for everything that’s wrong in this country. Me and my friends, those “illegals” hahah

  4. My mom’s from Japan, and she finally got her citizenship when 187 was being introduced. “They’re going to take everything away,” she said, meaning things like Social Security and Medicare, (not really distinguishing between State and Federal entitlements). I’m not sure if she did this in time to vote against it, but she did register Democrat.

    She must have voted in ’94 because I was living up in the Bay Area when I heard of her citizenship and voting. The furor against 187 wasn’t as great up there as down in LA, it seemed. Maybe it seemed that way because I was disconnected from the Latino community – because they were concentrated in East Oakland, and I was in North Oakland. There’s a level of blase about politics up there because it’s so liberal and leftist – you almost think it’s impossible for things like 187 to happen. It’s like a progressive bubble. People have a lot of freedom to do things that would be illegal elsewhere. At the same time, it’s kind of backwards in its race politics — politics was very “black and white” or blacks and whites, even though there were a lot of browns and yellows around and have been since the start.

    I started watching Spanish news to keep up on the law. It was nuts – it seemed like they might pass other laws to start doing “round ups” like they did in the 1950s and 1930s. (Or like in Arizona today.) The LA protests made it onto the national news, and it was surprising – LA didn’t have big demonstrations the way the Bay Area did. Up there you don’t even have to call for a demonstration – people just show up at UN Plaza in SF after anything and have a protest.

  5. yes according to the film there were some Latinos that actually supported this prop. But like I said most Latino’s did not vote because they could’t mostly. It is sad that things like this are still happening today. I least now we have a different generation that is able to vote and protest further when it comes to injustice.

  6. @DJ, a lot of Latino immigrants maybe couldn’t vote but lots of second and third generation Latinos (which are the majority of Latinos in California) voted and unfortunately, some supported the proposition.

  7. I grew up in the Coachella Valley and was in high school at the time of 187. There is a huge migrant community there and also a large anti-immigrant population. Coachella High and Indio High Schools staged a walk-out and people were vocal for both sides. Most students didn’t understand what the big deal was but participated in the walk out to get out of class. But there were a few that I knew who were genuinely terrified of what might happen to them and their families.

  8. I’m not surprised that the Bay Area voted against it.

    What I said about politics up there still stands. The city of SF has always been 30% Chinese, but where are the Chinese politicos? The area’s always had Mexican Americans, but where are they in the political scene outside of San Jose?

    187 was a left-right issue, and at the time, the state was still a pretty Republican state. Several years later, the county of LA would turn Democrat, and has now been a solid Democrat city for a while.

  9. It was a turning point for a lot reasons. Yes, the EZLN had taken municipalities in Chiapas, (makes me wonder how many of today’s young activists, thinking you Random, have studied or heard about the EZLN and its significance in Chicano/a politics. It was huge. post coming up soon.) Yes music in Spanish from cumbia, ranchera and Roc, were becoming widely accepted. Cindylu and I had a conversation about when this happened, how it became cool to listen to music in Spanish with peers instead of just at home with family. A cable access show called “The Illegal Interns” helped push new artists in these new Spanish genres, also Mark Torres and his show “Travel Tips For Aztlan” on KPFK and lots of events put together by artists and fans. We had the Peace and Justice Center, Popular Resource Center / Regeneracion, Arroyo Books (still open in 94?), and with the influence of Raves people began to see how any space could be a venue for an art show or concert.
    At CSUN we had teach ins on 187. I along with my cohort Juana Mora once sat in the Student Union at a table with a sign that said “Ask us anything about Prop. 187” We took questions from anybody. Our Student Body President then Vladimir Cerna called me and asked me about what else could we do to change the tide of 187’s popularity. It was very popular. Together we came up with the idea that we had to show a face of 187, he thought of bringing David Duke to campus as ‘the face’ of 187. David Duke was a former Grand Wizard of the KKK and obviously had been calling for racist laws such as 187 for many years. We wanted to have him debate Earl O’Fari Hutchinson at CSUN in front of the student body and media in order for people to see who they are agreeing with when they say they support 187. Needless to say, there was a riot, caused by folks from up north and cops raided the campus. We never got the debate and 187 never got its racist face put on. Its a long and good story, I will make a post about this also. Instigators and good ole police disruptions.
    It was a crazy time that opened up lots of ideas and changes.

  10. At Chimatli, you are right about the second and third generation being able to vote and some even voting for prop 187. I guess it was those split feeling between Mexican Americans and Mexican nationals and how Mexican Am even felt disconnected or disliked the fellow paisas. Look at César Chávez -at one point he was amongst one of the most vocal critics of illegal immigration and did not like the bracero program. He used to also report illegals to INS. Because he did not like the fact that the farmers hired these “scabs” and what not when they wanted to unionize and be on strike.
    Until he realized he needed to unite with the fellow paisa and not go against him. So in a sense I think for a long time Mexican Americans thought maybe they were above the paisas or felt that they were not anything alike. I don’t know the real reasons but I can see in today’s generation we embrace our roots more then ever. Which is amazing.
    @ Pachuco, yes do some posts on this sounds like you got the 411! great =)

  11. alienation says:
    November 12, 2010 at 3:41 am

    What I said about politics up there still stands.


    With all due respect…Alienation. Some of what you said is just flat out wrong. While I agree with you about Asians being suspiciously absent from elected political seats in the bay area, you went on to say that the bay area was too consumed with “black and white” politics, as in race, to be concerned about a brown issue like immigration. According to the prop 187 election results, the bay area cared more than anyone else in the state, including Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, considering 1994 was when L.A. was still in the post Rodney King aftermath and in the middle of the OJ hysteria, it’s more likely that LA was too consumed with black/white politics to care about a Latino issue. The election results would certainly suggest so, considering not one SoCal county voted against 187, while 7 bay area counties did.

    You also said that people in the bay area live in a “bubble”, which reeks of the tired old right wing attacks on bay area politics. It’s how the right has historically discredited any political position coming out of the bay area. Suggesting they’re “isolated”, and don’t know how things work in “real America”, as they put it. They say the same about Los Angeles, btw, which makes it all the more disappointing when someone from Los Angeles says it of the bay area. I’d remind both you and them that a lot of people moved to the bay area and Los Angeles in the first place because they know all too well what middle America is like.

  12. Rob, I am not here to get into a big argument with you. I didn’t say they were too consumed with black-white politics. I said that’s how race politics worked up there: it’s black-white. Demographics don’t always translate into politics. Politics has structure to it – and the structure was mostly about black-white.

    You can’t infer about everything from election results. LA voted for 187, but it was a lighting rod here. Many activists say that organizing around 94 was a turning point in Latino politics in LA – not just on this thread either. The immigrant rights fight has been like an engine that’s pushed LA into being a Democrat-voting county. This energy propelled Brown into the governor’s office, and it’s a solid 16 years later.

    p3000 – please write that post. I landed (back) here in 95, and i was surprised about the anarchist world here: it was half Mexican and Mexican American. Most of the rest of the US thought of anarchists as white guys and lesbians, but here it was mostly people of color, and probably mostly Latino.

  13. Alienation,

    Whether you like it or not, the 1994 election results almost entirely debunk your summation of bay area politics in the early ’90s. As a matter of fact, and I pointed this out in my previous comment, your view of the bay area at that time more aptly describes Los Angeles at that time, considering the 1994 election results.

    I can’t infer about everything from election results? Am I to assume you wouldn’t infer about the results had they supported your point?

    If I might borrow your tone for a second, I don’t want to argue about it, either. But I just can’t let falsehoods about a region of the country, a region that I feel has been pivotal in pulling America out of the stone ages where basic human rights are concerned, go unchecked. The bay area obviously took Prop 187 very seriously, and resoundingly rejected it at the polls. Disappointingly, there wasn’t an impressive turnout at the polls in Los Angeles rejecting it.

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