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Chapter 1: The Origins of Prop 187

Learn more about the groundwork that led to the introduction and eventual passage of Proposition 187. See archival footage from major news networks and interviews from those in the frontlines of the events as they unfold such as: Juan José Gutiérrez, former executive director of One Stop Immigration; Fabian Núñez, former speaker of the California State Assembly; Fernando Guerra, founder of Loyola Marymount University's Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles; Manuel Pastor, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California; Raphe Sonenshein, author of three books on Los Angeles politics and government; Stewart Kwoh, founder of Asian Americans Advancing Justice; and seasoned political journalist Pilar Marrero.  

On November 6, 1986, Ronald Reagan signed into law what is now known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The law enabled illegal immigrants to apply for legal residency in the United States. It was the most comprehensive reform of immigration laws since 1952 and ushered in a radical change in California’s demographic makeup. Aside from this marked change in the state’s racial makeup, the early 1990s also saw California feel the effects of a national economic recession, where half of the jobs lost in the country were actually lost in California, according to Pastor. It was also a time of great unrest and tragedy signified by the L.A. Uprising (sparked by the beating of Rodney King) and the 1994 Northridge earthquake. As California was seemingly coming apart at the seams, Governor Pete Wilson needed to mount a re-election bid. In an effort to win victory over a strong Democratic candidate Kathleen Brown, he helped propel this anti-immigrant bill into the limelight.  

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