In a blow to the burgeoning anti-immigration movement in the United States, a federal judge has struck down large parts of a draconian law passed by Californian voters last year to bar illegal aliens from schools and hospitals.
Judge Marian Pfaelzer delivered a long awaited 71-page ruling in Los Angeles, declaring unconstitutional many of the most essential elements of the law, in particular those denying undocumented immigrants access to federally-funded education and medical treatment.
The decision is an embarrassing set-back for the Governor of California, Pete Wilson, who championed the measure, known as Proposition 187. After bitter campaigning by both sides the law was approved by voters by a 3- to-2 margin last autumn.
Its passage gave impetus to a nationwide movement towards tough new action against illegal immigrants and spurred other states, notably Florida and Arizona, to begin work on similar kinds of legislation. Congress has also begun drafting new laws to lower immigration levels.
Mr Wilson said the judge's ruling was "very unfortunate. It frustrates the will of the people of California". He vowed to appeal against the decision and suggested that the issue would ultimately have to be resolved by the Supreme Court.
In her ruling, Judge Pfaelzer essentially gutted Proposition 187. Among the elements that she overturned was a provision that would have obliged hospital workers and school administrators to report to the authorities any undocumented aliens seeking …