Wednesday, July 15, 2009

California Snake Oil

Here in my home state, the budget is over $25 billion in the red. One group is trying to find someone to blame, but not the Governor nor the legislature who got us into this mess. It's far easier to pick on a group with little or no political power.

This group consists of "undocumented workers" or "illegal aliens", take your pick, or to be more precise, their U.S. citizen children.

The plan is to put a proposition on the California ballot which, if passed, would cut off welfare payments to these children. Will this solve the budget crisis? Hardly, since the cuts would be less than 4% of the budget deficit. Would such a move be challenged in court? Certainly. There is no getting around the fact that under the 14th amendment to the Constitution, these children are U.S. citizens and cannot have their legal rights abridged, no matter what the status of their parents. Will it make a lot of voters enraged against "Mexicans" and "wetbacks"? But of course...

History tends to repeat itself, and this is no exception. Back in 1994, a bunch of zealots put anti-immigrant Proposition 187 on the ballot. The proposition would have cut health, welfare and educational benefits for illegals and, in some cases, for their U.S. citizen children. Sound familiar?

I wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times about Proposition 187, warning that the ballot initiative was clearly unconstitutional. The proponents of 187 dubbed it "SOS", short for "Save Our State". My article was entitled "Snake Oil Salesmen".

Proposition 187 was passed by an overwhelming majority of voters. Republican Governor Pete Wilson endorsed the proposition and went on to win the election.

Did Proposition 187 accomplish its stated goals? Hardly. The Courts declared the proposition unconstitutional. What's more, the campaign jolted the state's large Hispanic population into action. Millions of immigrants naturalized as American citizens and registered to vote. The Republican presence in the California State Legislature shrunk to about one-third.

Hopefully, the latest attempt to demonize immigrants from Mexico and their U.S. citizen children will fail at the ballot box. In any case, it will be a colossal waste of time and money since U.S. citizens cannot legally be deprived of benefits due to the immigration status of their parents.

One can only hope that the comprehensive immigration reform bill supported by the Obama Administration will pass Congress and be signed into law this fall. Let's get every worker in this country on the tax rolls, and handle this matter in an intelligent fashion.

We link to the latest legislative proposals from our "Immigration Legislation" page at

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