California’s Proposition 187, dubbed the “Save Our State” (SOS) initiative by supporters, was a ballot initiative aimed at prohibiting undocumented immigrants and their children from accessing the state’s social welfare services and public schools, including its public colleges and universities. Voted into law during the 1994 general elections, the proposition’s widespread voter support reflected the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment in the 1990s. The law was immediately blocked by a state injunction and became the subject of a multi-year court battle that culminated in a 1997 federal court ruling that found Proposition 187 unconstitutional.
Yet, Proposition 187 was precedent setting: it marked the first time that immigration legislation was passed at a state rather than federal level. Since its passage in 1994, several other states have moved to police undocumented immigration (see also: Punishment Increases for Undocumented Migrants, 1996). Additionally, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (see also: Punishment Increases for Undocumented Migrants, 1996) enacted aspects of its agenda at the federal level.