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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

How Proposition 187 Transformed California

 November 4, 2019 at 10:35 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 One way to look at California politics is before prop one 87 and after prop one 87 the proposition dubbed the save our state initiative was aimed at prohibiting people living in California illegally from receiving medical, educational and other social services. After it passed by a whopping margin. Most of the initiative was blocked by the courts. Nevertheless, prop one 87 had a powerful impact, just probably not the one that supporters intended. This Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of proposition one 87 and a new Los Angeles times podcast by columnists. Gustavo Ariano tells the story of the initiative. It's called the battle of one 87 and Gustavo, welcome to the program [inaudible] for having me. Now, right off the bat and the podcast, you say there are questions about prop one 87 that have bugged you for years. What are some of those questions? I wanted to know the rationale that it's supporters or its creators had in creating one 87 I also wanted to know the particulars, like why the name save our state. Speaker 1: 01:09 I also wanted to hear from the people whose lives were radically transformed by one 87 the politicians and the principles and the founders of nonprofits and also just how one 87 has played out in these past 25 years. It's a really remarkable story that explains I, in my opinion at least why California is at the place we're at, where we have a super majority of Democrats in both in the state legislature in both of the assembly and the state Senate. Now you track down the people who actually came up with the idea for this initiative. Talk about some of the cast of characters that had a role in shaping this proposition. I ended up interviewing over 50 people for my podcast, but we shrink it to like the best characters, so you have to start off with Barbara and Bob Kiley. They were political consultants who help that with the one 87 campaign. Speaker 1: 01:58 A Barbara at the time was a mayor of your Belinda wealthy city here in orange County and what was remarkable about them as their candor? They said flat out, we didn't know there was a problem with illegal immigration, California until our friend Ron Prince one day, uh, goes out to a grocery store asking for signatures for a ballot initiative. Apparently it was something that he would do a lot and he would always fail except for illegal immigration. It completely took off. That's how one of these several was created. It was created as a favor to a friend, Barbara and Bob Kiley said, well you're our friend, we might as well connect you to some people we know they just happen to be former ins officials and anti-immigrant hardliners, uh, activists who were in orange County at the time. If you remember the prop one 87 campaign, its official name was say save our state. Speaker 1: 02:42 It was called the save our state initiative. So I asked them, where did you come up with the name, save our state. And they said flat out. Yeah. After four margarita is at El Torito. Well you know, you hear from your podcast as well how San Diego played a central role in the character as who behind this this initiative. Oh yeah. I mean I, this podcast is only an hour. I wish it could have gone on so much. Of course, San Diego was so huge on the issue because the borders right there in Sandy seed throw. And so one of the big characters is Peter Nunez. Peter Nunez was the a us attorney or U S attorney general down there in the San Diego area during the late eighties when you were seeing a lot of undocumented immigration crossing through in what used to be called the soccer field, where they would, uh, were a lot of undocumented immigrants would be waiting for the night to fall and then they would just cross a border. Speaker 1: 03:30 So Peter Nunez paints the scenario, which are, you know, a lot of people who would say they're for undocumented immigrants would, uh, the scenario he paints out is like hundreds, if not thousands of immigrants crossing the line. It's almost a party on the other side of the U S and Mexico border. That's actually what was happening, especially those of you who are down there in San Diego during the late eighties and early nineties. And he ends up joining Barbara and Bob Kiley to create the one 87 campaign. And of course our former mayor Pete Wilson. Oh yeah. And so Pete Wilson of course is a big character in this, a in this podcast. I never got a chance to talk to him. We have been in communication for over two months. Hopefully an interview will happen and if it happens it will be a bonus episode with Pete Wilson though, as I say in the podcast, one question I'll never ask him if I ever talked to him is do you regret supporting one 87 because he has steadfastly stood by his support 25 years later, even as a state went from the Republican stronghold that he was, that he headed and of course won reelection in 1994 due in large part to his supportive one 87 to the super majority progressive democratic, a strong hold that we have today in Sacramento. Speaker 1: 04:36 So you see a connection and direct connection between proposition one 87 and the kind of very heavily blue state, California is now. What's interesting is that in the past couple of years, there's been a counter narrative to this, but for the past 25 years, a conventional wisdom on the political sphere, say that one 87 created a generation of voters, Latinos who went Democrat. Other people say, well, actually you started seeing an Exodus of these middle-class Republican voters from San Diego County, orange County. You know, people used to work in the defense industry and moved out, but one of the things that I did for my podcast was actually talk to these people. If you talk to the people who run Sacramento now, especially the Latinos, they'll all say one 87 was the marker. For me, it was the inspiration that I needed to get involved into elected office. So in episode three I excerpt a video that the California Latino legislative caucus did and just released this past Friday. Speaker 2: 05:32 Dear governor Wilson, 25 years ago this month, you ran for reelection by stoking native as spheres about immigration Speaker 1: 05:41 where they thank Pete Wilson. They say, Hey, governor Wilson, thank you for running the xenophobic campaign 25 years ago. Speaker 2: 05:47 You said California had to be saved from my mom, from my dad, from my mother and father. You said California had to be saved from our neighbors, our friends, our families. People could say, Speaker 1: 05:58 no one 87 didn't change California, but talk to the people who run it today. And very few people want to acknowledge what they have to say. So what's the similarity between the debate over prop one 87 and the immigration debate playing out today with the border wall and the policies coming out of this white house? That's a double edged sword. The I also examine is on one hand when he seven is painted nowadays as his parable, don't anger Latino voters because they'll become super democratic and run the state. On the other hand though, opponents of illegal immigration, they took one 87 as inspiration to start crafting their own laws on the local and state and eventually national level. And this paved the road for president Trump to be able to spout the nativist rhetoric or specifically against the illegal immigration that he has made a hallmark of his campaign. Speaker 1: 06:45 This entire idea of building a wall of cracking down on chain migration. It's a direct line from one 87 all the way to today. So aside from the ways you've talked about one 87 transforming California, you've said it changed you to how so? So in 1994 around around this time, actually 25 years ago, there were student walkouts all across California, tens of thousands of students from San Diego all the way to San Francisco and beyond. At my high school, Anaheim high on lunchtime. And I talk about this in the podcast, almost my entire school walked out. I chose not to though because I was too afraid. I was opposed to one 87 my dad had come to this country in the trunk of a Chevy and by about at this point, 50 years ago. So I was opposed to one 87 but I was just too scared to do anything about it. Speaker 1: 07:31 But that shame of not walking out. It stuck with me for years until finally in 1999 I was able to have an opportunity to address a school board that wanted to Sue Mexico for $50 million for educating the children of illegal immigrants. And ever since then, I've been trying to make up for me, not walking out. Like if people don't like my work, they could blame one 87 because at the end, I, my entire career has been a repudiation of cowardly me as a sophomore in Anaheim high 25 years ago, I've been speaking with Gustavo Ariano, Los Angeles times columnist and host of the new podcast, the battle of one 87 that's by the LA times and Futuro studios. Gustavo, thank you. Gaseous tune in Wednesday for a one hour, a statewide call in special prop one 87 25 years later. That's at 11:00 AM right here on Wednesday on KPBS. Speaker 3: 08:33 [inaudible].

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Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of Proposition 187 and a new podcast by The Los Angeles Times and Futuro Studios examines its legacy.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments