Two decades after California voters approved Proposition 187, barring public services to those in the country illegally, Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that the political tide has turned in the state with a growing wave of Latino voters demanding more tolerant policy from Sacramento.
Speaking to hundreds of Latino elected officials from throughout the country holding a conference in San Diego, Brown said the shift in power has made possible public support for changes including his signing of legislation providing driver's licenses to immigrants in the country illegally and providing them with scholarships and the right to practice law.
"The power you represent is growing and it is growing in very important ways," Brown told the members of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort.
Brown went on to credit "the sheer power of the Latino community as it is felt in the towns and cities and counties up and down this state. That is the tide that is turning the political feelings and philosophy of state government."
The governor cited the history of various groups controlling California as a lesson.
"The Mexicans threw out the Spanish around 1815, and then, of course, the gringos threw out the Mexicans in 1846, or 1848," Brown said. "But the point is you never keep control forever. There's always new waves coming so you've got to stay ahead of the wave."
"That's what we call Brown power," he joked with a play on his name.
Brown also drew applause when he touted a new school-funding formula approved for the state two years ago.
"The school district gets more money based on the number of non-English-speaking families that have their children in our schools," Brown said. "Because it's not really justice to treat unequals equally. You have to do more to be able to create that opportunity and that pathway for those families that are not having the same skill of speaking English as others."
State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), who introduced Brown, praised the governor for his support of the growing number of Latino elected officials.