ACLU of California Endorses SB 396 to Right Serious State Wrongs


SACRAMENTO – Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the introduction of Proposition 187, the divisive initiative passed by California voters in 1994 that sought to deny many public services to undocumented immigrants. Most provisions of the unconstitutional law were rejected by federal courts, but portions of the law still remain technically on the books.

With scores of community, faith, labor and legal organizations, the ACLU of California enthusiastically endorses SB 396, a bill to repeal the unlawful and unenforceable provisions of Proposition 187 that remain in California statute today. These include sections impacting education, health care, social services and law enforcement.

“The ACLU of California was on the frontlines of defeating Proposition 187 when it was first introduced, and we remain committed to ensuring that that the last vestiges of this divisive law are erased,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “No one benefits if such laws are left in place to create confusion or, worse yet, fear among our immigrant communities.”

Proposition 187, which sought to create an immigration status screening system to withhold public services from undocumented immigrants, was struck down in federal court as unconstitutional in 1999. But its provisions can still be found in California statute, creating insecurity for many. For example, Penal Code 834(b), which required law enforcement to inquire into the immigration status of individuals they arrested, still appears in the statutes, and leads to confusion and violations of civil liberties.

The Senate also introduced a resolution, SR 51, to recognize the harm Prop 187 has wielded on untold number of California residents, and to call for a more united California.

“The ACLU was one of the organizations that opposed Prop. 187 and was also one of the many organizations to sue to stop the unconstitutional law,” said Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. “It’s time to finish the job and get this law off the books.”

“California celebrates diversity and the model with which our multi-ethnic state leads the nation,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “Prop. 187 was xenophobic and represents one of the darkest points in our state’s history. We have seen this provision referenced in jail policies and legal memos pertaining to law enforcement with immigrants. When this statute is wrongly enforced, the rights of immigrants are violated. With violations come pain, harm, and real danger for community members across the state.”

The ACLU of California continues to work to ensure that immigrants receive protections guaranteed under the Constitution, including the right to be treated fairly in court and to be free from discrimination based on race or national origin. The ACLU of California comprises the three California ACLU affiliates—the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Southern California, and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

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