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Congressional Republicans Could Learn A Thing Or Two From The Pro-Immigrant Moves Of California

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Congressional Republicans may be resisting comprehensive immigration reform in favor of Trump-style, enforcement-only measures, but that hasn’t stopped California from picking up the baton Washington simply doesn’t have the courage to touch.

A must-read editorial from the Sacramento Bee highlights the groundbreaking work California legislators have both introduced and passed — from tuition, to driver’s licenses, to healthcare — to improve the daily lives of the state’s undocumented immigrants.

The moves are both humane and smart politics — when it comes to demonstrating the changing demographics of the nation and the relentless power of the booming Latino and immigrant vote, no state better exemplifies than California.

Once a solidly purple state, the notorious, anti-immigrant Proposition 187 — spearheaded by Republican Governor Pete Wilson (who became known to many Latino families as “El Diablo”) — sparked a backlash from the Latino, Asian, and immigrant communities, who turned their frustration into registration drives and power at the ballot box.

The backlash still resonates to today, still. Once a state that helped rocket Republican President Ronald Reagan twice to the White House, now only Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (himself an immigrant) remains the sole Republican to win a state gubernatorial, senatorial, or Presidential election since 1994.

The trend has since become known as, “the Prop. 187 effect.”

Republicans still concerned about the future of their party and who don’t want a repeat of the Prop. 187 effect on a national level would be smart to listen to the lessons of California rather than to give in to the fear tactics of Donald Trump and other anti-immigrant extremists.

Following the defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012 at the hands of Latino, Asian, and immigrant voters, RNC Chair Reince Priebus released an “autopsy report” detailing a plan to make up for lost ground among those voters, including passing immigration reform.

But just a scant few years later, Donald Trump — who infamously called Mexicans “rapists” — leads the Republican nomination field. Republicans may have to learn yet another lesson the hard way in 2016.

The editorial from the Sacramento Bee in its entirety below:

California long has pioneered the future, from climate change to pay equity. Now, in the absence of national reform, Gov. Jerry Brown is offering a way forward on yet another evolving issue: immigration.

On Monday, acting on a bill by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, Brown excised the offensive term “alien” from the state’s Labor Code, a symbolic but telling flourish to new rules that, taken together, offer a national blueprint for dealing with the nation’s undocumented population. We applaud him. It’s about time.

Anyone who remembers the mean-spirited Proposition 187 era knows that ideology is powerless against demography. The courts rightly overturned that harsh 1994 initiative, which sought to deny education and health care to immigrants here without papers. Proposition 187 came during economic dislocation when Californians felt small and beleaguered. But it also pandered to a fear, now national, that the culture is too rapidly changing.

The lesson that emerged was that, as ever, fear doesn’t halt change, it just complicates adaptation. Minorities are the majority now in California, with Latinos the most populous subgroup, and though Donald Trump and others may imagine some short-term political gain in demonization, California is only previewing a trend that’s enveloping the country.

As Brown has deduced, the smarter approach is to acknowledge people who are here without permission, so that their children aren’t punished, the weak aren’t exploited and the rest of us aren’t endangered by their impulse to remain in the shadows. That, as an analysis in the Los Angeles Times recently pointed out, is why California has created a new body of law, ranging from subsidized pediatric health care and protection against federal immigration enforcement to in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Nearly 500,000 people have signed up for the new immigrant driver’s licenses that came online in January, an extraordinary surge that promises to make the state’s freeways exponentially safer. Another pending bill, with bipartisan backing, would seek federal authority to legitimize farmworkers who already are here by granting them work permits.

The shooting death of Kathryn Steinle at the hands of a criminal Mexican national in San Francisco notwithstanding, these new rules have, for the most part, helped smooth California’s evolution.

Congress should watch and learn, and come up with an overall immigration solution. As California can attest, the future happens, whether you roll with it or not.