Panel Paper: Project 100% and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in San Diego County

Friday, March 9, 2018
Room 16 (Burkle Family Building at Claremont Graduate University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Amy Lynn Ivy Nantkes, Claremont Graduate University

This study examines the political atmosphere surrounding immigrants and welfare program benefits in San Diego County, California in 1993-1998. Key political events were occurring in California, such as the vote on Proposition 187 (1994) and the election of incumbent candidate Governor Pete Wilson. Nationally, the enactment of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996) ushered in new policies on the eligibility of immigrants for benefits, and brought about the “end of welfare as we know it.” These circumstances opened a policy window (Kingdon, 1995) locally for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and the office of the District Attorney to adopt Project 100%, an anti-fraud initiative that mandated blanket home inspections for welfare program applicants in the county.

Analysis includes County Board of Supervisors meeting minutes on welfare fraud program proposals, along with a sentiment analysis of articles published in the San Diego Union-Tribune on immigrants and welfare in 1993-1998. The following questions are considered in this research: (1) What apprehensions about immigrants as welfare recipients were vocalized by residents and leadership of the County of San Diego around the time of Project 100% implementation? (2) In what way did these apprehensions create an environment that made blanket investigations for fraud politically feasible for those political actors and agencies involved? The study concludes that the anti-immigrant sentiment surrounding the 1994 California gubernatorial election, coupled with the change in immigrant access to programs via PRWORA (1996), brought about the political conditions ripe for the implementation of Project 100% in San Diego County.

Keywords: Poverty, San Diego, Immigrant, Welfare, Fraud, Project 100%