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Decision '94 / SPECIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA'S ELECTIONS : Prop. 187 : 187: Denies Services to Illegal Immigrants

October 30, 1994

P roposition 187 proposes action in several major areas: education, health, social services and law enforcement. Following is a summary of how the measure would impact each area and arguments for and against its passage.

SCHOOLS

* WHAT IT DOES

Proposition 187 requires educational administrators to verify the legal status of each child--and their parents--enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools. Children who cannot prove they are citizens or lawfully admitted immigrants would be barred from school after a 90-day period. School administrators would also be required to forward the names of suspected illegal immigrant children and parents to the INS, the state attorney general and state superintendent of public instruction.

Estimates by various authorities have placed the number of students statewide who could be expelled as a result of this provision at between 300,000 and 400,000. The annual savings for excluding 300,000 students could amount to $1.2 billion annually. However, passage of Proposition 187 would put at risk $2.3 billion in annual federal education funding because the reporting of suspected illegal immigrants appears to violate the provisions of a federal educational privacy act, according to the state legislative analyst.

Unlike other provisions of the ballot measure, which would take effect immediately upon passage, verification of the legal status of children enrolling in school for the first time would begin Jan. 1, 1995. By Jan. 1, 1996, the status of current students and their parents would have to be checked.

Both sides agree that passage of Proposition 187 would result in a legal challenge. In order for this component of the law to take effect, the U.S. Supreme Court would have to ignore or reverse its decision in the 1982 Plyler vs. Doe case, which made it unconstitutional to deny public education to undocumented school-age children.

The proposition includes a clause, common in statewide initiatives, saying that if any portion of the measure is held invalid, other portions would remain in effect.

* ARGUMENTS FOR

Sponsors say that by reducing the number of students in schools across California, classroom overcrowding and educational costs would be significantly reduced.

The state's student-to-teacher ratio could be decreased, costly bilingual programs could be reduced and the quality of education could be improved for students who are legal residents.

The process of verifying legal status would not require major bureaucratic entanglements since school administrators already are responsible for receiving identification documents and health records for students enrolling in school. Students who do not produce documents will be reported to the INS so they can be returned to their home countries to receive an education.

A challenge of the Plyler vs. Doe decision could force the Supreme Court, which now includes six new members, to reverse its decision, allowing this measure, and similar ones that other states might be encouraged to enact, to stand.

* ARGUMENTS AGAINST

Opponents say it is unfair to turn school administrators into quasi-immigration officers and immoral to turn children into scapegoats because their parents may have broken the nation's immigration laws.

If children are not educated, yet remain in the country, they are bound to be a costly, long-term burden to society. The measure provides no specific means of deporting illegal immigrants so most would remain in the state. Youngsters who are on the streets rather than in school would be more likely to turn to street gangs, drugs and lives of crime.

Even some youngsters who are citizens could face problems remaining in school if their parents were reported to authorities as illegal immigrants.

The legal challenge that would result if Proposition 187 passes would be costly, time-consuming and would, in all likelihood, result in the Supreme Court reaffirming its 1982 decision. If the sponsors of 187 were serious about saving taxpayers' money and wanted to challenge the court decision, opponents ask, why aren't they doing it without forcing taxpayers to foot the bill?

PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

* WHAT IT DOES:

The state's public colleges, universities and community colleges would be barred from admitting pupils who are not citizens or lawfully admitted immigrants. Administrators would be required to verify the legal status of all students and provide the names of those suspected of being illegal immigrants to state and federal officials.

Undocumented students currently taking courses for credit at community colleges or the University of California are required to pay non-resident tuition to cover the cost of their education. Students in the California State University system, in accord with a court ruling, pay in-state tuition.

* ARGUMENTS FOR

Those who break the law by being in California illegally should not be allowed to make use of the state's public services.

* ARGUMENTS AGAINST

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