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In overturning 1994's Proposition 187, federal courts ruled that California can't cut off publicly funded education, health care and welfare benefits for people who immigrated to the country illegally.

Yet laws on the books in California still include passages that were created by the controversial ballot initiative, prohibiting public schools and universities from admitting students who are not citizens or legal residents, denying undocumented immigrants the ability to access social services and requiring teachers and professors to turn undocumented students in to federal immigration authorities.

Those passages would be deleted from the state's education and welfare codes under a bill Sen. Kevin de León introduced Wednesday. While it wouldn't make any practical difference in how laws are enforced in California, de León said the symbolism is important.

"We think that symbolically it's a very powerful gesture to all Californians that we will remove and completely erase this part of our troubled history with immigrants," the Los Angeles Democrat said during a Capitol press conference promoting Senate Bill 396.

He described Proposition 187 as one of "the most mean-spirited and un-American" measures in California history. Backed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, voters approved it twenty years ago, though it was quickly invalidated by the courts.

Democrats who are part of the Legislature's Latino and Asian Pacific Islander caucuses joined de León Wednesday in sharing their family stories of immigration, the role Proposition 187 played in sparking their political awareness and praising de León's bill to erase its evidence in the legal books.

The lawmakers also said they are working to develop an advisory ballot measure that would ask voters if they want Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration laws and include a so-called "path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants.

PHOTO: Sen. Kevin de Leon with Assembly members Das Williams and Lorena Gonzalez at Wednesday's press conference criticizing Proposition 187. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall


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