Newsletter: The long legacy of Proposition 187

Students from Belmont High wave flags and yell from the steps of L.A. City Hall after they walked out of school and marched through downtown to protest Proposition 187 in 1994.
(Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Nov. 5, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

This morning (and throughout the day), many Californians will be going to the polls, with numerous races in San Francisco and a North State Assembly seat up for grabs, among other local contests.

Back in November 1994, California voters made a decision at the ballot box that would help shape the state as we know it. But arguably not in the way they thought.


My colleague, features reporter Gustavo Arellano, has spent the past few months delving into the legacy of Proposition 187. Tracing the proposition from its birth in Orange County to its peak on election day and then its ultimate failure in the courts, Gustavo found that the anti-immigrant ballot measure actually helped spark a Latino movement in California.

Proposition 187 and its aftermath are the subject of “The Battle of 187,” a project Gustavo released last week that includes a fantastic three-part podcast in collaboration with Futuro Studios, a personal essay, a timeline, and more stories to come. Here’s Gustavo with some background and a long view on that fateful vote:

“Twenty-five years ago this week, tens of thousands of high school and college students across California walked out of their classrooms to protest Proposition 187, a California ballot measure that sought to crack down on benefits to undocumented immigrants and also keep them out of public schools.

“I was a sophomore at Anaheim High at the time, and my classmates poured out of the campus quad during lunchtime on Nov. 2, 1994, with such force that they tore down the fence. But I didn’t join them, even though my dad used to be undocumented and many of my friends and family members remained undocumented.


“I was too scared of what I had seen all year: a virulently xenophobic campaign that echoes Donald Trump’s rhetoric today. Voters would overwhelmingly vote for 187 on Nov. 8, 1994, by a 59% to 41% margin, a win even larger than the one achieved by the proposition’s most vocal proponent, Gov. Pete Wilson.

“California seemed to, once again, be ready to influence the rest of the United States. And it did — although not in the way its proponents and opponents ever foresaw.

“It’s now a political parable told nationwide: What happens when you run a campaign that casts Latinos as invaders, as 187 did? Modern-day California, where Democrats hold a supermajority in both chambers of the California State Legislature, and use their powers to make help out undocumented immigrants instead of demonize them.

“But 187 also paved the way for immigration restrictionists to mimic the initiative nationwide. And their success from Arizona to Pennsylvania and beyond set the runway for Donald Trump to blast off all the way to the White House.”


[Listen to the podcast: “This is California: The Battle of 187" ]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


Apple said it will direct $2.5 billion toward affordable housing in California. It’s the latest tech giant to pledge money to one of the state’s most pressing problems. The announcement, made Monday, follows similar big pledges this year from Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which put money toward housing in its home base of Seattle. The move comes amid criticism that tech firms haven’t done enough to relieve a pressing problem they’ve made worse. Los Angeles Times


At the urging of a team of advisors, the Trump administration is considering proposals to privatize national park campgrounds and further commercialize the parks with expanded Wi-Fi service, food trucks and even Amazon deliveries at tourist campsites. Los Angeles Times


LAX will expand its Uber, Lyft and taxi pickup lot after a very chaotic first week. Los Angeles Times

See also: Just how bad is the new LAX ride-hailing pickup system? On Sunday night it took more than an hour for taxis to drive to the LAX rideshare pickup lot from a waiting zone that’s about a five-minute walk away. Los Angeles Times


Meet the 20-year-old lunch truck entrepreneur who feeds the workers of Bel-Air’s mega-mansion boom. Her mornings start before sunrise at a sprawling commissary in South Los Angeles, and her truck sells about 20 pounds of carne asada a day. Los Angeles Times

The city of L.A. has temporarily suspended Uber’s permit to rent electric scooters and bicycles after months of conflict over a data-sharing policy. The company’s subsidiary, Jump, must appeal the decision by Friday or leave the city. Los Angeles Times

An LAUSD fourth grader wanted to know about the “gross” yellowish water at her school, so she wrote a reporter a letter. He investigated. LAist

Columnist Nita Lelyveld on why Hollywood loses out by not better harnessing the talent and life experiences of the disabled. Los Angeles Times


The 1982 film “Blade Runner” opens with a title card that says “Los Angeles, November, 2019.” It is now November 2019 in Los Angeles. How well did the sci-fi masterpiece do in predicting a vision of L.A.'s future? Curbed LA

Harrison Ford in 1982's "Blade Runner."
(The Ladd Co.)

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.



Dementia can make patients wander. What happens if they cross the border? New York Times


Rep. Adam Schiff once wanted to be a screenwriter. Can he give the Trump presidency a Hollywood ending? Washington Post

California conservatives are leaving the state for “redder pastures.” Los Angeles Times



Authorities in Kern County destroyed about 10 million marijuana plants being grown under the guise of industrial hemp. Los Angeles Times


Many of the air quality measurement stations supplying information to the public were shut off when PG&E cut power to parts of Northern California, leading to inaccurate and confusing information as wildfires raged. Washington Post


President Trump has made good on his pledge to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but there’s still a lot the United States can do to help the world live up to the goals of the landmark international agreement. Los Angeles Times

The third modest earthquake in a week has shaken up northern Sonoma County, striking the area burned in the Kincade fire. Los Angeles Times


Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick celebrated his 32nd birthday by helping Oakland’s homeless. He spent the day giving out food, backpacks and respirator masks. East Bay Times


The seedless lemon revolution has taken root in California. Los Angeles Times

Silicon Valley billionaires keep getting richer, no matter how much money they give away. Recode

Restoration of a beloved San Diego mural is underway: Located at the entrance to San Ysidro Health’s Beyer Boulevard clinic, the mural has greeted thousands of patients since 1980. San Diego Union-Tribune

Mountain biking is the new team sport for high school students in Modesto. Modesto Bee


Looking for homemade gifts in the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier? Here are 11 holiday bazaars and craft fairs. San Gabriel Valley Tribune

A white educator at Milpitas High School who wore blackface on Halloween has been placed on administrative leave. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: sunny, 82. San Diego: sunny, 74. San Francisco: sunny, 70. San Jose: sunny, 78. Sacramento: sunny, 78. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Tim Goncharoff:

“Growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when freeways were rare, meant a trip to the beach for us was an all-day journey over winding country roads. Mom, Dad and four kids bouncing around with excitement in a little Volkswagen (sans seat belts, of course) until the lucky pioneer shouted out, ‘I see the ocean! I see the ocean!’ ”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.