Trump’s Immigration Rhetoric Echoes a Bitter Fight from the 90s | Retro Report on PBS


-[ Crowd chanting ]
USA! USA! -Our country is out of control. People are pouring
across the southern border. -Indiscriminate floods
of illegals have crossed our borders. -Day one of my presidency,
they’re getting out. -Deport every illegal alien in
the United States immediately. -[ Chanting ] Build that wall!
Build that wall! Build that wall!
Build that wall! -I will build a security fence, and we will seal the border
of this country! -I was badly criticized
for using the word “invasion.” It’s an invasion. -The 1990s were a time of
building anger over immigration, and it started in a place
that might surprise you — California.
-USA! -Illegal immigration is
a serious problem in California. -Undocumented immigrants
coming across the border were concerning to Peter Nunez, a former federal prosecutor
who lived in San Diego. -Every night, the groups
would gather on the Mexican side waiting for the sun to go down,
and they would gather by the hundreds,
if not the thousands, and, at a certain point, the groups would just sort of
charge across the border. -It’s been dubbed
the banzai dash. Human waves overwhelm border
guards and race into California. -The number of Border Patrol
agents was totally inadequate, so it was totally
out of control. -California was in the middle
of a recession, and while the downturn
was primarily from the loss
of manufacturing jobs, immigrants
quickly got the blame. -Groups worried and angry about the impact of rampant
immigration are multiplying. -People are losing
their jobs left and right, and they felt this is because
of the influx of illegals coming and taking their jobs. -Robert Kiley was
a political consultant. He and his wife started working
with grassroots citizens’ groups who were angry
that undocumented immigrants were using taxpayer-funded
social services. -When you went to the hospital,
to the emergency, they were full of people there
that weren’t from this country. They were illegals. They were getting
medical services free. Schools were being impacted.
Cities were being impacted. -The Kileys helped come up
with Proposition 187, a ballot initiative that would
deny government benefits to undocumented immigrants. Peter Nunez became
an early supporter. -The idea was, “Let’s make
California an unfriendly place for people
who are here illegally,” with hope that no more
would come and that those that were here
would leave. -Their children would be kicked
out of public schools. Educators and healthcare workers
would be required to report anyone
they suspect of being illegal. -It was considered
an extreme idea by Democrats
and some Republicans, who said it would
unfairly target immigrants for the state’s
economic trouble. -The immigrants that were
coming here were doing jobs that nobody wanted to do. They were farmworkers. They were
people who were janitors. They were maids. -Opponents label Proposition 187
immoral and racist. -Taking innocent children and throwing them
out on the streets — that that somehow
is going to solve our illegal-immigration problem
is simply fallacious. -People thought
it wasn’t really gonna have much of a chance, but it turned out
it hit a nerve. -More than 600,000 Californians
have signed petitions calling for a halt to services
illegal residents receive. -And then it got picked up
by the politicians. -Republican governor
Pete Wilson, who was in a tight race
for re-election, threw his campaign
behind Prop 187. -Republican governor
Pete Wilson asking the state with the highest unemployment
to give him a second term. Wilson says don’t blame him.
Blame illegal immigrants. -The federal government
won’t stop them at the border, yet requires us to pay billions
to take care of them. -Wilson’s campaign ad
felt like a personal attack to Kevin de León,
even though he was a citizen. His mother had come
to California illegally before becoming
a legal resident. -It was something
that was deeply personal because I witnessed my mother, I witnessed my aunts who worked
their fingers to the bone, who helped build this economy. -For Hispanics, the largest
immigrant group in the state, it has become
a highly emotional issue. -The politicians
were scapegoating, demonizing, looking for someone to blame. That’s not the America
that I know. -De León didn’t have much
experience in politics, but he helped organize
anti-Prop 187 marches. -And they all brought
Mexican flags, and, boy, that ticked off
a lot of people. That polarized the issue.
Polarized it. Are you for it or against it? -The tensions just hit
a fever pitch. As a young Latino,
I felt unease, I think, for the first time
in my own city, my own country, my own state,
where I had grown up. -Yes on 187!
Time to get out! Stop… -Prop 187 was an expression
of unhappiness with a community that was rapidly becoming
less and less white. There was a kind of anxiety, anger, rejection out there
in the country. -Proposition 187
and Pete Wilson won in a landslide,
but the courts ruled that only the federal government
can regulate immigration, and Prop 187
never went into effect. -What happened
almost immediately after is a surge
of citizenship applications and of people saying
they were going to vote. A million new registered voters
who were Latino in California. -I thought for
the very first time, “Perhaps we have to
run for office. Enough with the demonization.
Enough with the scapegoating. We want to be
full-fledged Americans. We want to have
our voices heard. We want to have a say.” -Kevin de León
did run for office, and 20 years after Prop 187, he became the first
Latino president of the state senate
in more than a century. -My story should not be
the exception. My story should be the rule. -Before leaving office in 2018, he and other Latino politicians helped make California
one of the most liberal and immigrant-friendly states
in the country, a change fueled by a long-term
demographic shift in the state. -It’s not just the rise
of the Latino vote that has turned California
so blue. From the mid-1990s up until
the early part of this decade, there’s a mass exodus of
white working-class voters. They went to surrounding states. They were being replaced by younger, poorer
immigrant voters, and that combined, that mix, is what has made California
the bluest state in the Union. -But Proposition 187 had
an impact beyond California. Even though
it never went into effect, it added fuel
to an immigration crackdown that spread across the country
in the mid-’90s. -It was Prop 187 that began
the anti-immigration fever, a fever which has now spread
to Washington. -Immigration went to the top
of the agenda. -In every place in this… -The Clinton administration
started ratcheting up immigration-enforcement efforts because they were
scared to death of what Prop 187 symbolized. -Calls for
additional border barriers, expedited deportations, and for local police
to enforce immigration law started to grow, and it was a Democrat
who signed those ideas into law. -That’s why our administration
has moved aggressively to secure our borders more, by hiring a record number
of new border guards, by deporting twice as many
criminal aliens as ever before. -It was a really
fundamental change in the way
the federal government goes about enforcing
immigration policy and created the basis
for the large-scale removals that we’ve experienced
in this country. -Build that wall!
Build that wall! -We’ll build the wall, but who’s going to pay
for the wall? -Mexico!
-Who?! -Since the 2016 election, immigration has divided
much of the country, and there were echoes
of Proposition 187, from the anger…
-Go back to Mexico! -…to the rhetoric.
-They come over to the border. They have the baby
in the United States. We now take care of that baby — Social Security,
Medicare, education. Give me a break. -It’s this mix
of economic insecurity combined with dramatic changes
in our demography. We’re seeing the story
replay itself. -Today, the Trump
administration is taking a harsher approach
to immigration. -President Trump has decided to
slash the U.S. refuge program
almost in half. -New policies have expanded
the catagories for immigrants targeted
for deportation. -They’ve also made it harder to
apply for asylum and inacted aggressive family
detention policies at the border. -Lawyers say hundreds of
migrant children were forced to sleep on the floor for weeks
without enough food. -But California’s experience in the years
since Proposition 187 suggests that
it’s hard to predict what the current crackdown
will lead to. -You’re not going to realize
what seeds were being planted. It’s never a simple story
of a melting pot, and it’s not a simple story of,
“They’re taking over.” It’s this constant struggle between feelings
of being threatened and trying to create
a larger community, and I think 187
was a signpost on that. ♪♪