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Substitute former California Governor “Pete Wilson” for “Donald Trump” as the author of some of these quotes, and you could convince me that we are living in 1994 California, not 2017 America. In 1994, California was still mired in recession, lagging behind the rest of the country in what would become the remarkable economic recovery of the 1990s.Instead of focusing on housing, job creation, higher education, or retraining workers for the burgeoning information economy, some prominent Republicans decided it was easier to blame “illegal” immigrants, despite persistent statistics that immigrants use fewer public services than native-born residents. Arriving at a time when Latinos were beginning to reach critical mass in California, Prop 187 was almost perfectly (if unintentionally) designed to galvanize a generation of activists—which is exactly what it did.For anybody wondering why Republicans can no longer win statewide offices in California, look no further than the legacy of this blatant attempt to disenfranchise Latinos.
We were demanding respect and dignity, and were committed to showing respect and dignity.
We wanted to leave our community cleaner than we found it.
With the benefit of two decades of hindsight it’s obvious that Prop 187 planted the seed out of which Latino activism and political power began to grow.
I was eventually elected to the Assembly and became the longest serving Speaker since Willie Brown.
We could build a wall on the Mexican border tomorrow AND ban all Muslims from entering the country, and none of the issues that Donald Trump is claiming to solve, or protect us from, would change or be resolved.
Just like turning California into some sort of heartless police state in the ‘90s wouldn’t have helped an unemployed oil worker in the Central Valley get a job. But at the march, they were fighting for their rights in front of television cameras.As I’ve listened to Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants in general and Latinos in particular, I hear what many California politicians were saying 23 years ago. Trump is appealing to people with very real economic concerns by scapegoating an entire class of people who are not the cause of it.It’s often said that California is just like America, only sooner.We confront the same issues as the rest of the nation, just earlier.In 1994, Latinos were 28 percent of the population, but only eight percent of the electorate.By 2016, Latinos were 38 percent of the population and 31 percent of the electorate.For those too young to remember, Prop 187 would have barred all undocumented immigrants from using public health care facilities, public education, and many other publicly funded services.Yes, you read that right: It would have barred hospitals, schools, and other vital services from people who needed them.Like them, Trump is appealing to people with very real economic concerns by scapegoating an entire class of people who are not the cause of it.Just as 187’s backers avoided the very real and very difficult challenges of adapting to a new kind of economy, Trump is evoking a past that never really existed as somehow “great again.” He is also ignoring data as he pursues demagoguery.