Juan José Gutiérrez: A Champion of Immigrant Rights | KCET
Juan José Gutiérrez: A Champion of Immigrant Rights
Juan José Gutiérrez: Yes. My name is Juan José Gutiérrez. At the time of the work that was done against proposition or to defeat Proposition 187, I was the executive director of the One Stop Immigration and Educational Center. One Stop Immigration and Educational Center was founded in 1971. I became a successive director in 1985 and the purpose of One Stop was to provide legal and educational services to the immigrant community at large. In the 1990s, when Proposition 187 happened, we were engaged in providing the following services to the community.
Number one, always advocating on behalf of the community so that he could receive all the rights available to it. Along with it, the foundation that was always One Stop, providing educational and legal services. Legal services so that people could become residents, legal residents of this country, and education so they can transition from being immigrants to becoming United States citizens and fully exercising and enjoying the rights of citizenship in the United States.
Of the people that played a prominent role in mobilizing and organizing our community to defeat Proposition 187, working with me at the time was Kevin De León, Fabian Núñez who also played a role for a time with One Step Immigration Center had left to become the political director of the LA County Federation of Labor. Beyond the political work that all three of us did, we were friends not just merely acquaintances and therefore, it's important to mention that there was a special relationship between Fabian Núñez, myself, and Kevin.
We all shared a vision of always doing our very, very best to represent the best interests of the immigrant community and of the Latino community, in general, because we felt that we were there to do that. To understand why the Latino community came out in such huge numbers in opposition to Proposition 187 and to work to defeat it, one has to understand that that was preceded by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that was popularly known as the amnesty law that legalized approximately 3 million people around the country and in California, around 1.6 million men and women and young people.
That meant that all those individuals in order to become lawful permanent residents of the United States, they had to prove that they had a basic knowledge of the English language and of American civics and its history. The Congress of the United States allowed for applicants of amnesty that if they did not want to be subjected to an actual test during an interview process with officers of what was then called The Immigration and Naturalization Service, they could go to school, receive a certificate that they had done any number of hours learning English as a second language, American and civics, and present that certificate and thereby, avoid the actual test and become permanent residents of the United States.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, chose to go to school and they educated themselves about the rights and obligations under the constitution of the United States. At One Stop Immigration and Educational Center, we took that very differently, we participated fully in that process. For years, we educated people, immigrants about the privilege of residing in America and what rights they had in the US. You know the right to assemble, the right to demonstrate, et cetera.
That led to a level of awareness and consciousness on massive numbers of people that when they felt threatened under Proposition 187, they were ready and armed with the type of education about the rights that they decided that it was time to put into practice what they had learned in class. I believe that the reason why there was such massive participation had to do not in the genius of the individuals that were protagonist and advocated for the community to come out and support our efforts to defeat Proposition 187.
They did actually had a lot to do with the preparation that happened during the time that people went to school and availed themselves of the basic education but all important education about the political rights that they had as human beings, as residents, lawful residents in this country. I was shocked when Proposition 187 was presented in its original form as a Save Our State Initiative that eventually became Proposition 187 because it seemed out of placed. We had just legalized over 3 million people and they were in the process of becoming naturalized United States citizens.
It didn't make sense for a political party to go after an identified constituency, the Latino community in order to win votes. Now, the Republican Party can justify in the aftermath of what happened with Proposition 187 and our efforts to defeat it. They can justify it making all kinds of arguments about why it was not a racist proposition or an anti-Latino proposition but that's just rhetoric. The fact remains that it was a proposition to go after the Latino community and to beat her politically into submission.
Of course, we were not about to allow that to happen. In hindsight, when about Proposition 187, I think that it was not just one of the most horrendous political propositions by a major political party in the US, but it didn't make any sense if you thought about it logically because at a point in time when the Republican Party should have been competing with the Democratic Party and embracing us to join them, they chose to reject us and to beat us down and the consequences they're paying for it now.
In 1994, the polls were set to the public at large and specifically to the Latino community to do nothing about it because according to the polls, about 80% of potential voters in the state indicated that they plan to vote for Proposition 187 so he said, "Look, to do anything against Prop 187 is a lost cause." That's why I have always argued that while many people make the logical argument that Proposition 187 was supported overwhelmingly because 59% of the people that actually voted on election night, voted for Proposition 187 while 41% voted against it. Right?
I take a different view of those that said, "You still last overwhelmingly because look, the race, the opposition by more than 100% because if we start at 20% and we go to 41%, it's about 100%." Then taking into account that millions of those affected could not vote at the time either because they hadn't yet become naturalized citizens or were, worst-case scenario, they were undocumented themselves but nonetheless, affected by whatever 187 represented. Those were the ones that were mobilized, and came out on the streets and told their children they could vote and other family members to vote against Prop 187. In that sense, I still argue that a majority of the people of the State of California opposed Proposition 187. However, because many of those in opposition could not cast votes, Proposition 187 still won but the story of what the actual vote was on election day, I don't think tells the full story.
That's why, in the aftermath of the vote for Proposition 187, the Republican Party won the election for Prop 187, but lost politically for decades to come. That's been proven to be the case all these years since Proposition 187 won that vote. The reason why we decided that it was very, very important to organize and mobilize the community to play a role in the public arena was because we saw that no matter what we did, or didn't do, it was going to be extremely difficult to defeat Proposition 187.
The question for me was, "How do we turn what seems to be an inevitable political defeat longer term into a political victory?" The only way that I understood that we stood a chance to do that was to mobilize the community in significant numbers to make a statement. Not only about how we felt, but about what was in the best interest of society as a whole. I believed then and I believe now, that the decision to mobilize the community, especially those that could not vote but pay taxes and therefore, they had the right to express themselves about how they felt about a political proposition that was going to affect them in a very, very bad way, was the correct decision.
I think that history will judge whether or not that was a good decision, but 25 years after Proposition 187, I don't think there's any question that taking to the streets, mobilizing our community from children to young people and adults was the best decision that we could have made at that time. I think that something that makes us all feel very well is that we made that decision, we ran with it, and thanks to that, our community was vindicated politically, and otherwise.
Making the decision to mobilize and organize the community was not the most difficult part of what we ended up doing at that time. What made making that a reality was the fact that not everyone in our community saw eye to eye on our strategy. There was a significant portion off our community that felt that mobilizing our community, that exhibiting the massivity of our presence in California's society would turn people off, would turn voters in favor of Proposition 187 because it was said that there was a certain fear of the changing demographics in the state and the country.
That's what made our task of mobilizing our community, of reaching out to our community to participate politically like never before, difficult but because the idea was authentic, it wasn't guided by any special political or financial interest. It was all about uplifting our community and serving their best interest that were the guiding lights of the effort. I think that the community felt that, saw through it, and in the end, joined what ultimately was a movement to protect their political rights and best interests.
We overcame the hazards and the difficulties of realizing our goal of mobilizing our community and making the community a real presence, in the political reality of the state. I think that we were successful in doing that. Well, what we used to do on a daily basis from the day we decided to organize and mobilize the community was basic and we started what we had control over. Like at One Stop Immigration and Educational Center, at the time, we had countless schools. I don't mean thousands when I used the word countless, but we had, I don't know, 100, 150 centers where we taught immigrants about their rights and English as a second language.
We communicated with that base, which number in the thousands, about this threat, the proper political threat, that Proposition 187 represented and invited them to talk about the dangers, to get involved, and gradually led them to wanting to participate in being part of the opposition to Proposition 187. That was multiplied with other organizations that were of like-mind. We went to public schools, to churches, to religious services, actually. Not just to the Catholic classes for adults where they were also teaching them ESL, and American civics, and history preparing them so they could become lawful residents.
We also went and reached out to the labor unions, to the university, and Community College community the Cal State, etcetera. This was like a major, major effort and the idea was to have everyone, the entire community, understand that we were under siege, that we have become the political target of the intolerant forces in the state of California that felt that not only could they not let the state be governed by a Democratic Party candidate, but that we represented a serious threat to the state and, in a broader sense, to the nation.
The community embraced that understanding and that is why besides the big march and everything that came with it and what it took to achieve it, you also saw students from grammar school, to middle school, to high school who walked out up and down the state of California in support of the efforts to defeat Proposition 187. This was a real community effort on a massive scale that had not been seen, not just in the state of California, but I believe that in the entire country, there is no other situation, historically, where you can speak of children, adolescents, young adults, workers, housewives, and so on and so forth, everybody involved.
Every sector participated, but that was thanks to a group of organizers that managed the effort day in and day out. Without that level of attention to the work that needed to be done to be successful at every turn in everything that we were doing, it wouldn't have been as successful as it was. While 1994 was important, not just because we organized in the Latino community like never before to defeat these very bad, this very racist Proposition 187, there were other issues, I'll come back to those. What ensured that on October 16, 1994, we had this massive participation in the City of LA to oppose Proposition 187, were other marches that preceded the big march. In February, and in May, they were very important political marches that build on each other, leading to the massivity of October 16th. Now, simultaneously, the Labor Movement was doing a lot of soul searching about how they were going to respond to the threat posed by Proposition 187. From the vision of the organized Labor Movement, union members.
Some people know, others don't but the fact is that after the 1940s, and the end of the new deal with the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a lot of that progressiveness that have been part of the fabric of the political fabric of the country, for about a dozen years, suddenly was overcome by a conservative period. We have the McCarthy period, and so on in the 50s, what that means for people that don't know, the term McCarthy period, is that the Labor Movement was forced by political circumstances, to become very anti-immigrant.
Immigrants were blamed for being too radical, et cetera, et cetera. Immigrants started being rejected by the Labor Movement, and ignored by the organized Labor Movement. From around the 1950s, forward all the way to 1984, they were talking about here, immigrants were viewed by organized labor as enemies of the working class in America. All these myths, that undocumented immigrants come and take jobs away from Americans and they depress wages and all that caused a lot of problems, a lot of confusion. Of course, there was always a significant number of the more enlightened population, the [unintelligible 00:22:53] organize labor's reactionary position, and work against immigrants.
In 1994, that was the reality, but by 1994, in the county of LA, and in other counties like San Francisco since we're talking about Proposition 187, significant portions of the Labor Movement were fighting and pushing back against this position. They had become traditional by then, within organized labor, that immigrants were enemies of the American working class. One of those individuals within the Service Employees International Union, who by then had become or was about to become the largest labor union in the nation was led, one of the locals of SEIU Local 660, by Gilbert Cedillo who had gone from becoming-- He had been an activist joined the Labor Movement had become a prominent leader with SEIU.
He rejected the position that immigrants were enemies of American workers, and what's promoting that the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Labor, that he changed his position with regards to immigrants, and instead of rejecting them, accusing them of being scabs and being anti-organized labor was in immigrants, DNA and so on and so forth, he was advocating that it was time to embrace them to come back to the roots of what had made at one point, the American Labor Movement very successful because a significant portion of the membership at the senate of the Labor Movement were immigrants and a lot of its leadership as well.
That's how Gilbert Cedillo got involved. He was one of these authentic leaders that felt that in his heart, in his bone marrow, that we needed to fight against, not just propositions, racist Propositions like 187, but against the bad policies of the American Labor Movement, that for too long had demonized immigrants as something bad for the Labor Movement and that's what started turning the American Labor Movement away from very bad anti-worker positions and started bringing it back to where it is now, where the Labor Movement has decided decades ago, to embrace immigrants, and to see them as a source of new vibrancy and energy that it was lacking already in 1984.
That's another ramification, a very positive one from what immigrants did in 1994 to defeat Proposition 187. That made it clear to the Labor Movement, that immigrants were not anti-worker, anti-union, but rather labor had made a mistake in the past, and that he needed to get back to the business of doing what labor unions are supposed to be there for. That is to organize the unorganized regardless of whether they have documents or not. How I came to cross paths with Gil Cedillo, it was 1994, he was already working with the Service Employees International Union, Local 660.
He was the general manager of that union and he had day to day responsibility for over for managing the affairs of about 60,000 county workers under collective bargaining agreements with the county. Proposition 187, happens and I went to a conference in San José where the subject of Proposition 187 was on the agenda, and I had to go and make a presentation, he made a presentation and then at the end, we said, "Hey, it seems like we're on the same side, we need to work together on this. We both have a very, very tough task."
You're going to have to persuade your labor union, and hopefully, the larger Labor Movement, the County Federation of Labor, for example, and I'm going to have to do all work with community groups and other social actors to oppose Proposition 187. He said, "I'll make a commitment to do that." He went to his executive board, they voted, and they decided to do it. That's how Gil Cedillo became an active part of the effort to defeat Proposition 187.
I have to add an underscore, he was very successful in bringing the Labor Movement, at least at SEIU, and then, by extension, the entire Labor Movement in the area with the help of Fabian Núñez, who comes back into the picture because by then, he was the political director of the LA County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. Between the two, they were able, no actually, correctio. Fabian was not the political director of the LA County Fed at the time, it was James Wood, who was the head of the LA County Fed but already, both Gilbert and Fabian were involved in the Labor Movement.
I think Fabian was working with the Electrical Workers Union at the time, and they were the ones along with other individuals, like Hoyle Ochoa, Paris, who was with the machinist, he was also an important part of those that went to work in the gut of the Labor Movement and brought it along. Well, my memories are of a bright sunny day and I got to the Cinco Puntos location in the heart of East LA on what used to be Brooklyn Avenue and it's now Cesar Chavez Avenue and Laurina. There's this monument to the Mexican-American heroes of American wars. We decided to stage, I wasn't thinking a lot about the monument but in retrospect, I think that it was very, very important that it started the march, congregated there, and then we matched from there. In as much as Wilson was treating us and conservative Republicans as a threat to the country, a country for which we have shed our blood in war after war after war defending it, given up our lives, thousands of lives as proven by this monument to the Mexican American war heroes.
I got there and the first thing that struck me is the festive mood and the fact that even though I got there early, there were already crowds of people moving towards the congregation site. Then, of course, we had the responsibility of coordinating the logistics, telling people where to go and how to line up and all that. That was hectic but I thought then and I still think today, that we were so committed to doing what was going to happen that day that we were just imbued with a sense of history.
This was very, very important, this was going to mark a day where in the future, people were going to talk about what the Latino community had been to that point and what the community went on to become after the march and the vote to enact Proposition 187 and then the defeat of Prop 187 in the courts. We were all tense, I was tense throughout everything that happened on that day but at the same time, I was very relieved that this huge effort to make that march on October 16th happened, was finally going to be over.
We were going to be accompanied in that collective relief by what became known to be thousands upon thousands of people of all ages and all walks of life, all there with one idea that we were not going to allow anyone, no matter how politically powerful they might be, to step all over us and condemn us to play the role that I had denounced already in many forms and that was to be modern-day slaves of California society and of America, persecuted, earning the worst wages, and so on all because we were supposed to be suspect in the best of cases of being truly Americans and in the worst-case, illegal aliens and that we only deserved to be persecuted, arrested, incarcerated, deported, and so on.
That day we said, "No, enough is enough. We have human rights and we came here not to hurt anybody but to be part of the American family and we don't deserve to be treated as anything less than that." Well, one thing was violence, I was concerned that some anarchists might show up and do something unbecoming of an event like that that could set things off. We were all on a short fuse, California had become incredibly polarized between those that were in support of Proposition 187 and everything that it represented and those of us that we felt that it was the worst political idea in modern California history.
Nobody knew what could happen if a contingent of right-wingers would come to provoke the marchers and stuff like that. Those are things that you think about and that you prepare for but most importantly, you hope that you don't have to deal with a scenario like that. Amongst the achievements of what happened on that day was the civility and the good behavior of the participants. I remember that after all the speeches and all that when the march ended and disbanded.
We told people to go home and to enjoy themselves and keep working, to mobilize the vote, to defeat Prop 187, I remember seeing small groupings of people that spontaneously organized themselves and they were picking up trash and putting it in available trash bins and so on so that the place was clean. I remember it wasn't a bad scene by the time everybody disbanded. I remember the members of the LAPD with whom we had dealt with to get the permits and all that, review security and all that over the course of weeks. They remarked that they were surprised at how well behaved the crowd had been and how civil they were.
They looked after one another and they made sure that they set an example for everyone about how to do this type of public events. The LA Times was so bad at the time, so conservative, a bastion of Republican right that not wanting, I guess, to show weakness as though they were a political actor, as though they were Pete Wilson himself. They couldn't take a political defeat well and instead, they went on the offensive trying to discredit the great political achievement of that day, a proud day for all Californians, I believe.
They focused on the fact that many of the participants had taken Mexican flags to the demo and they publicized pictures in the LA Times showing these flags and using derogatory language. Racism of the worst kind, trying to represent what we had done as something that should be understood as threatening. I don't know to what but it sounded almost like we were threatening to destabilize and collapse the nation. It was just unbelievable.
The focus was not why we were there, why we had found ourselves forced to do this mobilization, and this mass organizing and the success that it had gained, the movement it had gained. Instead, it was, "Oh, they took too many Mexican flags." What they didn't understand is that the way I understand the right to express yourself which is a constitutional right is that this was not an orchestrated event. This was not staged, this was authentic. People were called on to come out and join the movement to demonstrate and to defeat Proposition 187.
It wasn't a parade where you took cheerleaders and so on, this was a political demonstration. The Republican right had been attacking us violently and the LA Times did not have the decency to point that out. Instead, they kept talking about it with all these euphemisms that they used to justify the unjustifiable. To go after the weakest in our midst, the weakest in the working class, the undocumented person, and demonize it in a really, really bad way. That's what the LA Times did and that's what will remain there for posterity that even as we fast approach the 21st Century, the Republican right could not accept the changes as something that demographic changes and others as something positive. As something to work with, to mold the society in which we all want to live in. Instead, they try to present anything that we did including this massive march and demonstration as something that was threatening, that needed to be feared and they justified volume for Proposition 187 as something that sounds sustainable as racist regimes for years to come. If Prop 187 had been implemented, it would have caused chaos across the board. Sure, in the first instance, Latino families would have been affected the worst.
The family would have been devastated across the board so would have the economy because what people failed to discuss during this whole debate about the merits or lack thereof of Proposition 187 is the fact that California's economy was to a very large extent, dependent on immigrant labor, a significant portion of which was undocumented. I think that economically, the state would have lost, society as a whole would have lost because the economy would have gone into a recession into a severe crisis.
Over and beyond that, is the moral argument that says that the United States as a country, even though this was a state proposition, would have shown itself to the world as not upright as historically it has claimed to be. It would have been very, very bad to the social fabric of the United States because it would have created a lot of tension and animosity that is very hard, amongst the different ethnicities and races, it's very difficult to envision at this point, what could have happened or what would have happened had Proposition 187 been implemented.
I'm happy with the fact that because of the work that was done to defeat it, over time, a majority of the American population certainly, an overwhelming majority of the population of the state of California saw how huge of a political mistake it would have been not only that Proposition 187 was voted in favor of by the majority of the population of the state, but had it been implemented. I think that in the end, we all breathe a sigh of relief that Prop 187 was never implemented because of judicial action that was successful in stopping it.
For that, what has changed is that we now have Proposition 187 on a national scale and led not by Pete Wilson, but by our president Donald Trump, everything that proposition proposed has become a reality under the administration of President Donald Trump. On the other hand, on the positive side, California has become the most progressive state in the nation is leading the resistance against the reactionary policies that are incarnated by President Donald Trump.
Whereas in 1994, we wanted to throw kids out of public schools, turn teachers and doctors and nurses and firemen and police officers, and so on into a de facto immigration officers to arrest and deport people, now California has become a sanctuary state where we see immigrants irrespective of their immigration status as human beings, as people that are trying to make good for their families, just like every other immigrant that came before them, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Then of course on the political front, the aim of Proposition 187, which was to empower the Republican party at the expense of immigrants and Latinos, that didn't happen. Now, we have a California legislature that's overwhelmingly Democrat. All state positions are in the hands of Democrats, the Republicans do not have a single state office. That's significant. On the other hand, coming back to the negative, now we have the Donald Trump challenge.
Although the nation today, demographically at least, is not comparable to what California was then and is now demographically, I think that there's a lot that, there are if one looks closely, a lot of similarities. The question is, going forward, are we going to close ourselves and by the narrative that's being peddled by Donald Trump and his cohorts, or are we going to break through and decide that we're better than that? Just like we decided in California, although we lost the vote against Proposition 187.
I think that we've learned the lesson and now progressive forces around the country understand full well that the idea of Donald Trump, again, just like Pete Wilson did 25 years ago demonizing the immigrant, blaming them for everything that's gone wrong or is going wrong in America, it's a story that's worn thin and it's winning less and less supporters. I think that ultimately, it's going to go down in defeat. I don't know what's going to happen in 2020.
That's why even though it's something that people say every four years when they talk about politics, 2020 is going to be in my case, Juan José Gutiérrez's case, the most important political election of my lifetime where Americans are going to decide whether we embrace the politics of the past or we choose to go forward into the future with everybody on board working together towards common goals because the experience, posing and defeating Prop 187 in two stages, first politically although we lost the election and because we rejected it massively up and down the state, but a lot of those people couldn't vote.
Then in the courts, that's a good blueprint to what we can do nationally and I think that people are deciding that they're not going to repeat or they will refuse to repeat on the national scene what we did in 1994 when a majority of the electorate voted for Proposition 187. The first thing is that we're all human beings, that we can not use the rhetoric of human rights and that we respect human rights and we don't respect them at home. We've always said that it doesn't matter if you're documented or undocumented, if somebody commits a crime, that person should be punished, period.
If you're a person that's contributing and paying taxes and trying to do good by your family, we should embrace all of those people, all of us, because we can do more together than by buying the idea that there's a fundamental difference between a white person and Latino or an African American and an Asian and so on and so forth. We're all human beings and California is a golden state. We have the largest undocumented population in the whole United States and yet, if California were a country, we'd be the fifth economy in the world. Now, how did that happen? Is that mean that what farmworkers do or dishwashers or whatever, doesn't do anything to contribute to making California the golden state? I think that that's the lesson the entire country can be, not a golden state, but a golden nation in a true sense. That's only going to happen, when and until we decide to embrace one another, recognize our humanity, and decide that the rights that one individual has, that are positives, should be extended to everyone. To me, that's the biggest lesson of Proposition 187. It taught us that if we separate ourselves from what some people are telling us, they're the others we lose, but if we come together, we shine.
We're capable of great things. California is the foundation or became the foundation of the future that I see for this country. This country is great and it's going to become greater, but we need to overcome the challenges posed by that declining right-wing that feels threatened, and the right to feel threatened because they're not offering anything constructive or positive for the people in America.
- Written by: Pilar Marrero, Portrait by: Samanta Helou Hernandez
Find more firsthand accounts of the Prop 187 campaign here.
Juan José Gutiérrez was the executive director of a Boyle Heights organization called One Stop Immigration when a group of citizens in Orange County decided to put an initiative on the ballot targeting services to undocumented immigrants.
Proposition 187 would have denied non-emergency health care, public education and other services to undocumented immigrants. It would allow state officials to verify people's legal status or deny services to those suspected of not being in the country legally.
Gutiérrez, along with regional directors of the organization in Pomona and Santa Bárbara, worked on a plan to mobilize immigrants to march against the voter initiative.
He was an immigrant himself, born in Tuxpan, Jalisco, in 1957, one of six children. He attended schools in México and Los Angeles and graduated from Garfield High School in East L.A., where he also was student president and captain of the football team.
In 1985, he became executive director of One Stop Immigration, a nonprofit that provided classes in English, civics and U.S. history to immigrants. The nonprofit also concerned itself with immigrant rights.
In 1994, Gutierrez was one of the lead organizers of a march against the voter initiative 187. Over the years, he continued to be a high profile immigrant rights activist in the Los Angeles area, pushing for immigration reform and changes in immigration policy.
As he and other activists made plans for the march, which was being discouraged by many Democratic mainstream politicians in California as potentially “counterproductive,” Gutiérrez went to a conference in San Jose to talk about Proposition 187.
In that conference, Gutiérrez got in touch with then labor leader Gil Cedillo, who was the general manager of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 660), the largest labor union in Los Angeles.
"We said, 'It seems like we are on the same side, we should work together on this,'" he recalls. Cedillo helped the ragtag group get funds for the march and rally the support of organized labor.
Gutiérrez remembers the day of the march as “historic and festive,” a day that “marked what the Latino community had been to that point and what the community went on to become after the march.”
After 1994, Gutiérrez kept working in the immigrants-rights arena, pushing for immigration reform and against other initiatives that would emerge in California, targeting minorities and immigrants.
He graduated as a lawyer at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1996 and is currently the president of Vamos Unidos USA, a legal services company founded in 2008 as well as continuing as executive director of One Stop Immigration and Educational Center (OSIEC).
"My whole life I've worked providing legal and educational services to immigrants," he says, estimating that OSIEC helped legalize more than 68,000 immigrants, mainly from Latin America, and to naturalize more than 26,000 people.
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Proposition 187 was a California ballot measure passed in 1994 that sought to deny public services to undocumented immigrants. While the initiative was meant to keep the “immigrant threat” at bay, it mobilized non-immigrants and immigrants in Latino communities as well as their allies across the state.
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