In 1994, California voters approved Proposition 187 by a margin of 59 to 41 percent. The ballot initiative was to halt access to public education, non-emergency health care and social services for illegal immigrants in the state.
But pro-immigration and Latino activists took to the streets to rally against the measure, and several Latino and civil rights groups filed lawsuits. In 1997, a federal judge declared the law unconstitutional. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson appealed the ruling, but two years later his successor, Gray Davis, simply gave in and dropped the case.
Now comes GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, bringing his get-tough-on-immigration message to California ahead of the state’s June 7 primary, and protesters – once again – are out in full force just as they were more than 20 years earlier.
For example, just days ago hordes of angry protesters blocked traffic and waved Mexican flags outside a Trump rally in Costa Mesa.
Some protesters jumped on cop cars, and at least one smashed the windshield of a police cruiser.
That was just the beginning.
The following night hundreds of protesters showed up at the California Republican Convention in Burlingame ahead of a Trump speech. Again protesters carried Mexican flags and blocked the road in front of the convention hotel, forcing Trump to enter through the back of the building. Several tore down a barrier outside the hotel, and some physically clashed with police.
And Latino activists have threatened even more protests as Trump continues to campaign in California.
Jesse Lee Peterson, radio talk-show host and founder of the nonprofit Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, watched the anti-Trump protests unfold last week and was struck by the similarities to the anti-Prop 187 protests two decades ago.
“It’s so amazing; it’s the same thing,” Peterson told WND. “The same violence, the same disrespect for the law. Those people would come out, and they’d be dressed in red. They would have the Mexican flag. They would attack the U.S. citizens with bricks and rocks and frozen cans and things like that. They would even attack the elderly who were out there with us protesting.”
Peterson, an exclusive WND columnist and southern California resident since 1968, took part in rallies in favor of Prop 187 at the time.
When he saw a white Trump supporter in Costa Mesa get hit in the head by a rock last week, it triggered a flashback to a rally he attended 20 years ago in which one of his white friends was struck in the head by a frozen can, bloodying his face.
At that pro-Prop 187 rally, a Hispanic Univision reporter asked the bloody-faced man if he was racist. In a confrontation caught on video, Peterson stepped in and chided the reporter for asking a “dumb” question and trying to portray his friend as a racist.
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Peterson says he supported Prop 187 because illegal immigration was harming the state as well as California’s black community, of which he is a part.
“The illegal aliens were coming in, and they still are; they were getting free social services at the time,” Peterson said. “I didn’t see that it was fair to the citizens of the state that we had to pay for that, and then there were many folks in the black community who could not get the services because of the overpopulation of the illegal aliens in the state. And it’s even worse today than it was then.”
The Migration Policy Institute estimated California’s illegal immigrant population in 2013 at more than three million.
Meanwhile, the Immigration and Naturalization Service had estimated California’s illegal population at only about two million in 1996.
Peterson, author of “The Antidote,” has seen the effects of illegal immigration in his hometown of Los Angeles. He said Mexican drug gangs have taken over certain areas of south central L.A., forcing black residents to flee. Illegal aliens have also competed with impoverished blacks for housing and jobs. Peterson believes they have driven California’s tax rates ever higher in an attempt to pay for all the social services they have used.
This is to say nothing of the Los Angeles education system.
“The schools are overcrowded,” Peterson explained. “The illegals are taking over the classrooms. A lot of them don’t speak English, so the teachers are having to focus on the illegals which is, once again, setting the black kids back. A lot of the black kids, they’re angry about that, so you have a lot of fights in those schools now.”
In short, illegal immigration has made an already-bad situation worse.
“Black folks have enough problems in those areas as it is with black-on-black situations, crime and stuff like that, but it’s even worse now,” Peterson revealed. “It got so bad at one point that the Crips and the Bloods joined forces to fight against the illegal alien gangs, the Mexican gangs.”
Peterson said it was unfortunate Prop 187 never went into effect because he and so many others worked hard for it to pass. He believes if the measure had been implemented, there would be fewer illegals in California today, taxes would probably be lower, the cities would be safer and fewer black residents would have had to move away.
“For the courts, for the judges to just strike it down like that was so wrong,” Peterson declared. “The citizens said what they wanted. They voted for it, and they should have gotten it.”
Many immigration advocates have argued Proposition 187 was responsible for turning California into a solidly Democrat state by stirring up Hispanic resentment against the Republican Party. It was Gov. Pete Wilson and other Republican lawmakers who most prominently supported the initiative.
Peterson said while plenty of Hispanics come to California and join the Democratic Party for reasons other than Prop 187, he thinks the ballot measure probably had an effect on how Hispanics choose to vote.
“I do know that because the Democrats were against Prop 187 and for the illegal aliens, [Hispanics] did join the Democratic Party, and they do join them because they’re looking for the free stuff, whereas they don’t believe the Republicans would do that for them. So yeah, it definitely has an impact.”
But Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, rejects the idea Prop 187 made California a deeply Democrat state.
“The fundamental problem for Republicans in California is that immigration created a much more progressive, or liberal, electorate,” Camarota told WND. “It may be that at one point or another early on it had some small impact, but the fact is that the state’s been entirely remade mostly by legal – and this is the important part – by legal immigration. Legal immigration is over a million per year, and California has been the top receiving state for the last 35 years.”
He pointed to an Eagle Forum report titled, “How Mass (Legal) Immigration Dooms a Conservative Republican Party.”
That report showed how Hispanics and other immigrant groups are natural Democratic Party constituencies. For example, 75 percent of Hispanics claimed to want larger government. Hispanics supported affirmative action, Obamacare and Obama’s stimulus package at greater rates than native-born Americans.
Camarota pointed out Hispanics are not driven to vote by social issues like abortion and “gay marriage,” and in any case they are not as socially conservative as some analysts think.
“Here’s the bottom line: In a democracy, public policy and elected officials have to follow the preferences in the electorate. Immigration has created a new electorate in California, and it’s slowly doing the same thing for the rest of the country,” Camarota said. “California’s a very liberal state now not because of 187; it has to do with the preferences of the voters.”
Although the aforementioned Eagle Forum report found immigration is not a top policy priority for most Hispanic voters, they do tend to favor amnesty for some or all of the current illegal population. Peterson said he talks to many Hispanics in the country legally to find out why they are OK with illegal immigration.
“Many of them see white people as their enemies, and they have been convinced that California belongs to them and not to white Americans. I think the hostility and anger that there was back then [in the mid-1990s] is even more pronounced now because they’re teaching this at the universities around here and around the country.”
Peterson also said Hispanics are falling into the same trap many blacks have fallen into.
“The Hispanics are allowing themselves to be brainwashed by the liberal, far-left radical leadership in the same manner that blacks have allowed hatred toward whites in the country to happen to them as well, and so they’re feeling entitled,” he said. “They think this country owes them something.”
Peterson noted California Hispanics reserved their vitriol for Trump – not Ted Cruz or John Kasich. He thinks they saw Trump as their biggest threat.
“They know that Donald Trump, if he is elected, that all of this crap is going to start to end because he will put a wall around the borders. He will enforce the immigration laws. They don’t want that to happen, so they’re trying to really stop Donald Trump,” Peterson surmised.
He offered a grim prediction of even more protests.
“We’re going to see more of it in this state until the election, until they know Donald Trump is not going to be chosen,” he said. “But if Donald is chosen, it’s going to get worse before it gets better because they don’t want him in there.”