Pete Wilson and Trump: Connecting Anti-Mexican/Latino Hate to Prop 187

By: Irene Sanchez

It has almost been a year since Trump released a political ad on Twitter that demonizes Mexican/Latina/o/x people, yet we must remember he is not the first to use political ads to invoke fear of these particular groups. While many news outlets and journalists undoubtedly attempt to draw lines in history to trace this racist sentiment, most have failed and will fail to trace the inspiration for these types of ads back to the 1990s and specifically to Prop 187 in CA and Pete Wilson.

Perhaps they are not aware of the history of anti-Mexican sentiment since before 1848 in what is now the U.S., but this ad is specific and points to a something we need to specifically speak about which is the history of anti-Mexican sentiment in the U.S. (which has become anti-Latina/o/x sentiment-mostly targeted at Central Americans as of late).

If we are to address our current and ongoing political moment and many moments, we need to go back to 1848 and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo when a large number of Mexicans became U.S. citizens after the invasion of Mexican territory by the U.S. and subsequent Mexican-American War that forced Mexico to concede land that consists of California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and parts of other states.

I am reminded daily through teaching, seeing hate crime statistics against Latinos on the rise and especially after the massacre in El Paso, shooting in Gilroy and attacks on Ethnic Studies in CA by a former Trump AND Pete Wilson Educational adviser that we can go back to trace Trumps inspiration for political ads to Wilson. If you’re a child of the 90s in California like me you most definitely remember what the ads for Pete Wilson and Proposition 187 looked like. Proposition 187 would’ve have made it illegal and criminal to provide basic services such as health care and education to anyone “suspected” of being undocumented. I remember watching in horror how Prop 187 was passed by voters in the state of CA. I remember the walkouts that followed led by students. Thankfully the Proposition was not implemented due to challenges in courts, it was found unconstitutional, but the damage was done.

It didn’t start with Trump or Pete Wilson for that matter.

Mexicans were never seen as or treated as citizens fully as the court case Hernández v Texas of 1954 demonstrates, as Mexicans lacked basic constitutional rights.

Today, our gente are still seen as foreigners no matter how long our families have been here. These racist laws/policies/rhetoric have given way to the anti-immigrant that is targeted at many Latinx communities today. They continue to use this divisive rhetoric and stereotypes to invoke fear and divide us, but now is the time to we need to really see what has been going on. Now is the time to connect the dots, draw a line and say enough.

With this upcoming election there will be more of this hate. There has to be, after all it wins elections like it did for the racist law Prop 187, like it did for Pete Wilson in California, and like it did for Trump in 2016. The stakes are high. Our communities are under attack. Our gente continue to be criminalized. Our gente are being lynched and massacred in the U.S. yet again. We can not sit back and watch it happen anymore. We will not live in fear or allow them to scapegoat our communities anymore.

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