PROPOSITION 187: Federal Judge Strikes Down
Proposition 187, "the voter-approved law to ban undocumented immigrants from receiving government benefits in California" was declared "unconstitutional" by a federal judge yesterday. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer decided "only the federal government can regulate immigration." Yesterday she banned the "remainder of the measure" after "block[ing] the state from implementing core provisions of the 1994 initiative" in November. In addition, Pfaelzer "barred passages that directed local law enforcement authorities, school administrators, social workers and health care aides to turn in 'suspected' illegal immigrants." Gov. Pete Wilson, who first introduced Prop. 187, lambasted Pfaelzer's decision, saying, "Her analysis of the measure is fundamentally flawed. This action will allow us to finally appeal her decision to the Ninth Circuit (Court) so that the will of the people can be upheld." Wilson contends that the 1996 federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which denied welfare benefits to illegal immigrants, "empowers states to regulate public benefit issues."
Pleasing To Some
Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, agreed with what he called the "sound legal principles" of Pfaelzer's ruling. "Under Prop. 187, the state attempted to deputize school teachers, doctors and social workers to enforce immigration law. But immigration is the exclusive province of the federal government," he said. The Chronicle notes that although a majority of voters approved Proposition 187, "it has never been implemented because of court challenges." Thomas Saenz, Los Angeles counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, commended Pfaelzer for "vindicat[ing] the important constitutional principle 'that we cannot be one nation when 50 states are allowed to set their own immigration policy.'" However, Rich Oltman, who chaired the campaign for passage of Proposition 187, said, "Proposition 187 doesn't try to regulate immigration. It is a mandate from California voters to end the huge amount of taxpayer money that flows to illegal aliens" (Rojas, 3/19).