The 1994 election initiative changed his life forever, says the emeritus leader of the California Senate

For Kevin De León, former senator and former president emeritus of the California Senate, Proposition 187 – which in 1994 sought to prohibit the undocumented community from accessing health, education and other services – was a direct attack on his family and his origin.

“He was the youngest son of a single immigrant mother, a maid, a housewife and a caretaker for the elderly. For me, it was a very personal matter … An insult, a slap, ”he says.

Moreover, he says, before 187, I never expect to be elected to a position. Kevin de León together with the leader of the Assembly, Fabián Núñez; the now councilor Gil Cedillo and the leader Juan José Gutiérrez were the promoters of the mega-march against the proposal 187 in October 1994. A march that for the first time showed the strength of the immigrant in Los Angeles.

“I didn't keep aspirations. I didn't have my defined goals. He was a community organizer and was happy as an English and civics teacher. He did not work for any political party. But the 187 changed everything and if it weren't for that electoral proposal, never without a doubt, I would have gotten into politics”, He says.

Former President of the Senate of California, Kevin de León, was one of the leaders born from the fight against proposal 187 / photo: Aurelia Ventura / La Opinion.

Kevin put into context what gave rise to 187: “The politicians of both parties were not able to explain to those represented throughout California why the economy was in decline and jobs and houses were lost. What they did was use the immigrant as a scapegoat for all economic and social ills. They blamed the most vulnerable in a brutal way and used it as cannon fodder for electoral purposes, ”he says.

What are the lessons left by Proposition 187?

"Never crack, but the important thing is that as a result, millions became citizens of the United States and now have the power to vote," he says.

Kevin argues that the triumph of Proposition 187 was a short-term victory for Republicans, but at the same time it was the beginning of the end for his game in California.

"Republicans nationwide must learn from California because they won Proposition 187 at a very high cost.”, He emphasizes.

Kevin de León along with Councilor Gil Cedillo, Senator María Elena Durazo and CHIRLA Director Angélica Salas were motivated to fight for immigrants from the 187 election proposal. / Photo: Jorge Luis Macías

Before 187, he says, Republicans in California had many of the most powerful seats in the state; and had sent two Republican presidents to the White House, Nixon and Reagan.

The now professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC), energy investment fund advisor and candidate for Los Angeles councilor by 2020, believes that we will never return to the past. “Latinos are very awake. From 187 in California, a Fabian Nunez was born who achieved the most powerful seat in the Assembly as well as a Kevin who reached the largest seat in the Senate, ”he emphasizes.

Kevin summarizes by saying that Proposition 187, in the end, was a triumph for Latinos. “The slogan was true, here we are and we are not leaving; and from the ashes of a great defeat, we achieved a great triumph and that we would never disrespect again, ”he says.


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