Faculty Advisor

John Rector


In 1994, the state of California was still recovering from an economic recession that most of the United States had already pulled itself out of. In that same year the 36th governor of California, Pete Wilson, was running for re-election against his democratic opponent. A ballot initiative was put forward called Proposition 187 by the state legislature. This proposed proposition was introduced as the “Save Our State” initiative to prohibit undocumented immigrants from using non-emergency health care, public education, and other social services through citizenship screening. This law was in effect for three days as it was blocked by an injunction in court and it was never fully enforced as it was later declared unconstitutional; however, it demonstrated an entire state’s willingness to target a subset of the population that’s purpose was to separate Hispanics socially, economically, and physically from the white population. The motivations to approve this law did indeed have a racist element; however, it was only one irrational fear of immigrants among other more important factors such as nativism, economic difficulties, and politics. This thesis challenges the notion that Proposition 187 was passed because of solely racial motivations to recognizing the more significant factors that led to its overwhelming support by Californians and how it was used for political gain. Proposition 187 and Pete Wilson’s campaign became synonymous and demonstrates how a minority can be used as a scapegoat for political gain by preying on concerns of crime and the economy rooted in nativism.

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