California Eases Its Tone as Latinos Make Gains – NYTimes.com
LOS ANGELES — A generation ago, California voters approved a ballot initiative that was seen as the most anti-immigrant law in the nation. Immigrants who had come to the country illegally would be ineligible to receive prenatal care, and their children would be barred from public schools.
Hispanics: California’s Next Majority
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Carlos Amador, who works as an organizer at the Downtown Labor Center of the University of California, Los Angeles.
But the law, which was later declared unconstitutional by the federal courts, never achieved the goal of its backers: to turn back the tide of immigrants pouring into the state. Instead, since the law was approved in 1994, the political and social reality has changed drastically across the state. Now, more California residents than ever before say that immigrants are a benefit to the state, according to public opinion polls from the Public Policy Institute of California.
As Congress begins debating an overhaul of the immigration system, many in California sense that the country is just now beginning to go through the same evolution the state experienced over the last two decades. For a generation of Republicans, Gov. Pete Wilson’s barrages on the impact of immigration in the 1990s spoke to their uneasiness with the way the state was changing. Now many California Republicans point to that as the beginning of their downfall.
Today, party leaders from both sides, and from all over the state, are calling for a softer approach and a wholesale change in federal policies.
The state’s changing attitudes are driven, in large part, by demographics. In 1990, Latinos made up 30 percent of the state’s population; they will make up 40 percent — more than any other ethnic group — by the end of this year, and 48 percent by 2050, according to projections made by the state this month. This year, for the first time, Latinos were the largest ethnic group applying to the University of California system.