California's Illegal Aliens Getting Benefits Again

Article excerpt


SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson out of the way, a major push is on in California to restore state rights and benefits to immigrants who are in this country illegally.

Already, new Democratic Gov. Gray Davis has brought back prenatal care for expectant mothers who are in California without proper documents. The action came through a provision in the new state budget that went virtually unnoticed until after Mr. Davis signed the new spending plan last month.

Another nine bills pending in the state legislature would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses and pay in-state resident tuition at state universities, and would give workers' compensation benefits to injured employees who are here illegally. All those rights had been eliminated during Mr. Wilson's eight-year tenure.

Most legislative Republicans oppose the measures but are helpless to stop them in the wake of last year's election results, which left Democrats in total control of California's government.

And just one week after signing the prenatal care back into action, Mr. Davis deep-sixed what little was left of the controversial Proposition 187, the GOP-backed 1994 ballot initiative that sought to deny all state and local government benefits to illegal aliens.

Most of the measure, which passed on a 61 percent to 39 percent vote, already had been struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge. But soon after taking office, Mr. Davis referred Mr. Wilson's appeal to mediation amid catcalls from 187 backers. "It's like negotiating with himself," complained Ron Prince, an Orange County activist who helped write the proposition.

The settlement reached this month between Mr. Davis, who opposed the plan from the start, and the initiative's detractors allows children of undocumented parents to continue attending public schools - a move Proposition 187 tried to forbid.

U.S. District Judge Marianna Pfaelzer's anti-187 rulings had earlier held that this provision conflicts with a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Texas case.

"Our agreement essentially embraces the spirit of 187," Mr. Davis claimed. "The proponents of 187 should just declare victory. Is 187 technically struck down? Yes. But it is supplanted by federal laws that will require the state to deny virtually all the benefits 187 would have denied, except public education. And there's no question 187 was the impetus for the federal welfare and immigration-reform laws that followed. …