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Follow-Up to Prop. 187 Dies

Ballot: Deadline to qualify passes. Initiative called on state to back denying citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

February 22, 1996|PATRICK J. McDONNELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There will be no Son of Proposition 187 on the California ballot this fall.

The so-called "Save Our State-2" initiative--crafted as a follow-up to Proposition 187--has failed to qualify for the November ballot, the California secretary of state's office confirmed Wednesday.

Ron Prince, the Orange County activist who authored the proposal, did not submit any of the more than 433,000 signatures needed before last week's deadline, said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for Secretary of State Bill Jones.

Prince, a founder of the so-called "Save Our State" movement that produced Proposition 187, had characterized "SOS-2" as a critical next phase for this presidential election year.

However, unlike Proposition 187, SOS-2--some dubbed it "Son of 187"--was strictly an advisory measure: The proposal called on the California Legislature to back a constitutional amendment denying citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrant mothers.

Experts are skeptical about the prospects of revising the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to everyone born in the United States. Constitutional amendments require strong support: the approval of two-thirds of the Congress and ratification by three-quarters of all states. Critics call the proposed amendment mean-spirited and un-American.

Proposition 187, approved by California voters in 1994, would have had force of law were it not for court challenges that have blocked much of its implementation. The initiative sought to bar illegal immigrants from receiving publicly funded education and other services.

SOS-2 never caught on like its predecessor, which catapulted immigration into the national spotlight and helped reelect Gov. Pete Wilson, an outspoken supporter of Proposition 187. The follow-up proposal lacked heavyweight political and financial support,

There was also dispute about the approach of Prince, who maintained tight control of the signature-gathering process for SOS-2 and was somewhat secretive, rebuffing press inquiries and alienating some former allies.

"Maybe this was the full employment act for Ron Prince," said Harold Ezell, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service western commissioner who helped draft Proposition 187 but called the follow-up proposal "ill-conceived" and indicative of Prince's lack of knowledge about the topic.

Prince, an accountant who has parlayed his Proposition 187 exposure into speaking engagements nationwide, refused to comment.

Despite SOS-2's demise, immigration is emerging as an important campaign theme. Proposition 187-type ballot proposals are advancing in Florida and Arizona; a kind of federal version of Proposition 187 is pending before Congress.

In recent weeks, the Clinton administration, clearly courting California voters, has unveiled Border Patrol buildups and other high-profile enforcement measures. Republican contender Lamar Alexander has called for a special branch of the military to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border, while fellow GOP hopeful Pat Buchanan has endorsed the posting of troops at the border and a national version of Proposition 187.

Meantime, Ted Hilton, a San Diego businessman, is soliciting signatures for an immigration-related initiative that supporters--including the Republican Party and Ezell--still hope to place on the November ballot in California.

The "Residency Status Verification Petition" would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify citizenship or immigrant status before issuing driver's licenses and identification cards; the documents would be needed to qualify for a range of social services. The measure would require the state to note residency status of new mothers on all birth certificates.

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