Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | KPBS Voter Guide

How Immigrant Activism Has Changed Since Proposition 187

Cover image for podcast episode

While the proposition never took effect, it ushered in a generation of immigrant activists that has transformed the state.

Speaker 1: 00:00 25 years ago today, California voters passed proposition one 87 which barred people living in the state illegally from receiving public benefits or attending public schools. While the proposition never took effect, it ushered in a generation of immigrant activists that has transformed the state. KPBS reporter of max Revlon Nadler spokes with spoke with three activists about our post one 87 world.

Speaker 2: 00:27 It's the element gum. The Chavez is 25 born the same year. Prop one 87 was passed. She's a DACA recipient from Mexico to her. Proposition one 87 is the world. She entered one where the lives of undocumented people has hung in the political balance.

Speaker 3: 00:42 I think there's remnants of it growing up undocumented in the border region because you know, I grew up fearing police and if my mom was driving us to school, whatever, to the grocery store, you know, I remember feeling significant fear if a police officer was behind us

Speaker 2: 01:01 for Christian Ramirez. His political awakening took place during the fight over one 87 when he was a freshman at San Diego state university growing up on both sides of the border in San Diego and Tijuana. He was shocked when when 87 passed with the two thirds majority,

Speaker 4: 01:16 I live in a boat. You know, I thought that my gosh, you know this, there's no way that this proposition is going to pass.

Speaker 2: 01:22 Ramirez, who now works for the labor union. FCIU is part of a generation that turned their shock into power. They spring into action in the years following when 80 sevens passage to usher in California's dream act, which gave undocumented students access to college, California also provided undocumented people with driver's licenses and severely limited the ways in which law enforcement could interact with immigration and customs enforcement. He says his generation found out that it had to build a larger movement to overcome the resentment of the immigrant community.

Speaker 4: 01:51 We learned that in order for us to be able to win, we had to have a strategy that allowed us to build broad coalitions and to employ every single means available to us to push for the kind of change that we are beginning to see in California. Now,

Speaker 2: 02:10 Chavez gives an example of those new coalitions,

Speaker 3: 02:13 you know, sitting in a room of a community of 10 folks from the immigrant community and 10 folks from the LGBTQ community and having conversations about coming out and how that kind of story was very similar

Speaker 2: 02:26 for Chavez, the Obama era executive order that allowed her to live and work in the U S pushed her into activism. She now works as an organizer for the group Alliance San Diego in the hope that an organized community could avoid another proposition, one 87 moment. At the same time, the Trump administration has folded some of the content of prop one 87 into national policy.

Speaker 3: 02:47 But I do think that if we want to get systematic change, right, it's not about who's in office, it's about, again, changing those structures that allowed politicians to make the moves that they're

Speaker 2: 02:59 Andrea

Speaker 5: 03:00 tech [inaudible] to Polly is another DACA recipient and she's still a student at USD. She got to go to college thanks to California dream act. She didn't learn about proposition one 87 until she was a freshman in college showing just how far this moment has receded in popular memory. I didn't learn about it like I didn't realize or learn about prop one 87 until a couple of years ago and I think that was the most shocking thing to me was the fact that like so many things had happened right here in this border and that I, I didn't even get to learn about it.

Speaker 2: 03:31 Still, she's fighting essentially the same battle as the students who kicked off protest 25 years ago. Next week, the Supreme court will hear arguments over the Trump administration's cancellation of the DACA program

Speaker 5: 03:42 when DACA was rescinded in 2017. I think that I had the normal reactions that any undocumented student what have, um, fear, anger, and I think that I was really frustrated and upset and sad, but my way of thinking was either I can continue to be sad and frustrated or I can try and do something about it.

Speaker 2: 04:05 Next Tuesday, Andrea will be leading campus protest against the cancellation of DACA, renewing a long tradition of activism that has achieved huge gains for immigrants in California in the 25 years since proposition one 87 at the same time for many undocumented immigrants across the country. 1994 is looking a lot like today, max with Adler K PBS news.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.