Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Judge's Final Ruling Scraps Proposition 187

From Associated Press

The long court fight over Proposition 187, which sought to bar illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits and services, was ended Monday by the federal judge who first found most of the initiative unconstitutional in 1994.

U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer approved a July agreement between the state and civil rights groups to drop remaining challenges to her rulings that Proposition 187 violated the U.S. Constitution.

Her original ruling, issued shortly after voters passed the initiative, barred enforcement of most of Proposition 187's provisions.

Proposition 187, which was approved by nearly 60% of California voters, would have denied public education, social services and nonemergency health care to illegal immigrants, who were already ineligible for most health and welfare benefits under federal law.

The measure would also have required teachers, doctors and other service providers to report suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, called the ruling "the final shovel of dirt on the grave of Proposition 187."

Pfaelzer issued a follow-up ruling in 1997 that the core of the initiative conflicted with the federal government's exclusive authority to regulate immigration. She said the education ban conflicted with a 1982 Supreme Court ruling that required Texas to keep public schools available to all residents regardless of immigration status.

Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, took office after his Republican predecessor, Pete Wilson, had challenged the judge's ruling. At Davis' request, a mediator supervised negotiations with Proposition 187 opponents, resulting in the July agreement by Davis not to appeal Pfaelzer's ruling.

All that will remain of Proposition 187 are two relatively minor laws that establish state criminal penalties for the manufacture and use of false documents to conceal illegal immigration status.

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