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Wilson Acts to Enforce Parts of Prop. 187; 8 Lawsuits Filed : Immigration: The governor orders prenatal care halted while a San Francisco judge bars expulsions from school. Religious leaders and Riordan urge calm.

November 10, 1994|PAUL FELDMAN and AMY PYLE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The battle over Proposition 187 shifted quickly from the ballot box to courtrooms, to government chambers and the streets Wednesday as Californians, in a resounding Election Day mandate, ushered in a new era of stern restrictions against illegal immigrants.

Acting immediately to put the measure he vigorously campaigned for into effect, newly reelected Gov. Pete Wilson issued a toughly worded executive order directing health care providers to discontinue prenatal services and new admissions to nursing homes for illegal immigrants.

"The people of California have passed Proposition 187, now we must enforce it," said Wilson at a morning press conference.

But Wilson was already encountering resistance in the form of lawsuits. At least eight were filed in various state and federal courts.

By midafternoon, a San Francisco Superior Court judge, acting on a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Unified School districts and the California School Boards Assn., temporarily barred enforcement of the proposition's requirement that illegal immigrants be expelled from California public schools. In a separate order, the judge extended the order to public colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a federal district judge presiding over a legal challenge brought by civil rights groups ordered that he be notified of any "substantive" enforcement of the initiative prior to a court hearing he scheduled for Wednesday. But spokesmen for Wilson and Atty Gen. Dan Lungren said they will proceed in implementing the non-education portions of the initiative because the judge did not directly order them to halt such actions.

Among the rapid-fire developments Wednesday after the measure's overwhelming passage by a 59%-41% margin:

* The Los Angeles City Council voted 10 to 3 to direct city employees not to follow any provisions of the measure, except its crackdown on the sale and possession of fake identity documents, until legal challenges have been completed. The council also voted to pursue any and all legal action to overturn the initiative, which bans illegal immigrants from government funded non-emergency services and requires local officials to report those suspected of being illegal immigrants to state and federal authorities.

* Clinton Administration officials said they will take no "precipitous" action to cut off federal funding to California for health, education and social welfare programs, saying they prefer to wait for the results of litigation aimed at thwarting the measure. Analysts have said that as much as $15 billion in annual federal funding is at risk because the initiative's requirement on reporting suspects runs counter to federal confidentiality requirements.

* Religious leaders and city leaders urged the community to remain calm and called on parents to continue sending their children to school without fear. "I urge all Angelenos to ignore rumors and to continue to express their opinions regarding this law in a peaceful manner," said Mayor Richard Riordan. Several small anti-187 rallies took place, including a gathering of 200 demonstrators outside the Downtown Reagan State Building, but they remained peaceful.

* Seeking to dispel fears that the initiative could lead to a public health crisis, Wilson announced that he would "take whatever steps are necessary" to continue to provide immunizations or any other measures needed to prevent communicable disease.

As dawn broke over California on Wednesday, there was little evidence of panic or immediate service cut-offs among the affected population.

In communities from San Francisco to South-Central Los Angeles, it was business as usual, as illegal immigrants who work as day laborers, kitchen employees and at other jobs went about their daily routines.

"We can't be afraid, we have to confront this issue," said Juan Carlos, 30, the father of three, as he waited for work outside a Homebase store in Ladera Heights. "It is either this or starve."

Carlos and fellow laborers said they did not believe sheriff's deputies who patrol the area would enforce the proposition. Under the measure, law enforcement officers can only question those already arrested for other offenses.

In the Los Angeles Police Department's South Bureau, where there has been nearly a murder a day this year, overworked detectives said they cannot even keep up with the growing roll of homicides, let alone ask arrestees for green cards.

"I don't have enough detectives to check on my murders. So how am I going to keep track of that administrative lunacy?" asked Lt. Sergio Robleto, commander of the bureau's homicide detail.

A wave of depression and introspection swept over public school campuses Wednesday morning, where just a week before student protests hit their peak with more than 10,000 young people walking out of class in Los Angeles alone.

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