On Saturday, March 25, a huge, largely Hispanic attended rally in Los Angeles protested anti-illegel immigrant proposals in Congress. Some compared the rally to Hispanic protests against a mostly Republican-backed crack-down law passed by California in 1994, which a federal court later overturned. As noted below, Prop 187 had “devastating impact” on Republican access to Hispanic votes.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times,
A crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched in Los Angeles on Saturday [March 25] to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall along the U.S.’ southern border. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa briefly addressed the rally. “We cannot criminalize people who are working, people who are contributing to our economy and contributing to the nation,” Villaraigosa said.
Spirited but peaceful marchers — ordinary immigrants alongside labor, religious and civil rights groups — stretched more than 20 blocks along Spring Street, Broadway and Main Street to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting, “Sí se puede!” (Yes we can!). Saturday’s rally…. coincides with an initiative on the part of the Roman Catholic Church, spearheaded by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, to defy a House bill that would make aiding undocumented immigrants a felony. And it signals the burgeoning political clout of Latinos, especially in California.
“There has never been this kind of mobilization in the immigrant community ever,” said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “They have kicked the sleeping giant. It’s the beginning of a massive immigrant civil rights struggle.”
Largely in response to the [immigration] debate in Washington, hundreds of thousands of people in recent weeks have staged marches in more than a dozen cities calling for immigration reform. In Denver, police said Saturday that more than 50,000 people gathered downtown at Civic Center Park next to the Capitol to urge the state Senate to reject a resolution supporting a ballot issue that would deny many government services to illegal immigrants in Colorado. Hundreds rallied in Reno, the Associated Press reported. On Friday, tens of thousands of people were estimated to have staged school walkouts, marches and work stoppages in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta and other cities. In addition, several cities, including Los Angeles, have passed resolutions opposing the House legislation. At least one city, Maywood, declared itself a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants.
Californian Hispanics may be smarting from the attempt, Repblican-led, to crack down illegal immigrants . Wikipedia recounts this 1994 legislative adventure as follows:
California Proposition 187 was a proposition introduced in California in 1994 to deny illegal immigrants social services, health care, and public education. A number of people and organizations were involved in bringing it to the voters. It was introduced by assemblyman Dick Mountjoy (Republican from Monrovia, California) as the Save Our State initiative. It passed with 59% of the vote, but was overturned by a federal court.
Proposition 187 included several additions to the law, falling into two categories.
* All law enforcement agents who suspect that a person who has been arrested is in violation of immigration laws must investigate the detainee’s immigration status, and if they find evidence of illegality they must report it to the attorney general of California, and to the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Local governments are prohibited from doing anything to impair the fulfillment of this requirement. The attorney general must keep records on all such cases and make them available to any other government entity that wishes to inspect them.
* No one may receive public benefits until they have proven their legal right to reside in the country. If anyone applies for benefits and is suspected by government agents of being illegal, those agents must report in writing to the enforcement authorities. Emergency medical care is exempted as required by federal law but all other medical benefits have the same test as above. Primary and secondary education is explicitly included.
The LA Times’ story went on:
Some Republicans fear that pushing too hard against illegal immigrants could backfire nationally, as with Proposition 187. Strong Republican support of that measure helped spur record numbers of California Latinos to become U.S. citizens and register to vote. Those voters subsequently helped the Democrats regain political control in the state. “There is no doubt Proposition 187 had a devastating impact on the [California] Republican Party,” said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant. “Now the Republicans in Congress better beware: If they come across as too shrill, with a racist tone, all of a sudden you’re going to see Republicans in cities with a high Latino population start losing their seats.”