Skip to comments.CA: Governor's immigration comments divert attention from agenda
Posted on 04/30/2005 7:17:43 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO (AP) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ignited controversy and drew national headlines this week with remarks supporting citizen militias patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border and criticizing billboards in Los Angeles that he said encouraged illegal immigration.
The comments came as his popularity is sinking and he is struggling to generate interest in his "Year of Reform" ballot package, prompting some experts to question his motives.
"It makes absolutely no sense to me," said Garry South, a Democratic consultant who also was a senior adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis. "Maybe all of this is unconnected - his comments about closing the border and now praising the Minutemen. But the fact is that the perception is building that this is a strategic decision."
The governor spent Saturday morning at a signature-gathering event in Southern California, urging customers at a breakfast cafe in Lancaster to sign petitions for three constitutional amendments he wants to put before voters in the fall.
He did not mention the immigration issues that have swirled around him the past two weeks. Instead, Schwarzenegger concentrated on selling his proposed ballot measures - addressing state spending, how legislative districts are drawn, and teacher pay and tenure - to voters in the largely Republican community northeast of Los Angeles.
With just a few days left before a key deadline in his petition drive, the governor is scrambling to get the millions of signatures he needs.
Generating interest among California voters has been an uphill struggle for Schwarzenegger, whose popularity has waned in recent weeks. For the first time since he became governor in the 2003 recall election, a majority of voters disapprove of the way he is doing his job.
Against that backdrop, Schwarzenegger suddenly has made immigration a focal point. Whether it has been by chance or design is an open question.
During a speech two weeks ago in San Francisco, he said "closing the borders" was the solution to the nation's illegal immigration problem. He apologized the next day for what he called a language error, explaining that he had meant to say "secure the borders."
This week, in a call to a popular radio show in Los Angeles, Schwarzenegger criticized a Spanish-language television station for billboards that identify its market as "Los Angeles, Mexico." The governor said the signs encouraged illegal immigration.
He also expressed enthusiasm for the Minuteman Project - volunteer activists that are patrolling the borders in Arizona. President Bush has denounced the group as "vigilantes."
On Friday, Schwarzenegger clarified that he wanted to be a "champion of immigrants," but one of his aides also said the governor would welcome the Minuteman in California.
His comments generated outrage from some Democrats and immigrant groups, and applause from the GOP faithful. But some pundits note they also have taken attention away from Schwarzenegger's sagging poll numbers and his troubled ballot campaign.
A Schwarzenegger spokesman cautioned against reading too much into the governor's remarks about immigration.
"He made one comment about the billboards, which is a big issue in Los Angeles and one the governor wanted to speak out about," said Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's director of communication. "And he expressed his opinion about the Minutemen. I think a lot is being made out of very little."
Stutzman said the governor has made his feelings known about illegal immigration before and made it part of his campaign during the recall. Soon after he won election, Schwarzenegger persuaded the Legislature to repeal a law that gave driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
Even if the governor is using the issue as political cover, many voters consider illegal immigration one of California's biggest problems.
A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that California is home to the nation's largest population of illegal immigrants - 2.4 million.
Schwarzenegger, whose proposed budget next year contains billions of dollars in borrowing, also has expressed dismay about the cost of illegal immigration to the state. For example, California pays about $750 million a year to house illegal immigrants in its prison system.
Schwarzenegger has frequently said the federal government needs to pay a larger share.
Still, the governor's strong statements in recent weeks baffle many political experts. Frustration over illegal immigration is greatest among Republicans and other conservative voters - groups that already strongly favor the governor.
Playing to his core supporters in a state as diverse as California can be politically risky, said Ann Crigler, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.
She noted how California voters approved Proposition 187 in 1994, a measure that would have prohibited illegal immigrants from receiving many state services. But former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and the state GOP paid a high price for supporting it, losing much of the state's Hispanic vote for years afterward.
"With growth in the immigrant population, an increase in their political activity and now with some of their members in positions of power - Schwarzenegger may be mobilizing this group," Crigler said. "He may find them much more organized this time."
If presidnet bush was as anti-ILLEGAL alien as Arnold something might get done.
This is written as if the two ideas are mutually exclusive. Someone needs to inform this writer that some immigrants are here legally, and those are the ones Arnold wants to champion. After all, he is one of them.
The Minutemen Monitor Project helped to highlight the issue of border security on a national level,.
The Gub has an opportunity to help bring focus to the illegals issue as a whole and educate the public of how large a problem it is and how much it costs legal residents and migrants.
The Feds need to fulfill their duty and defend this nation's borders, what the heck are we spending all this money on anyway.
The MSM needs to be straight up in its reporting and stop advancing the left's agenda.
If dem consultant South is correct in his assessment, this implies that politicians now have a "immigration card" to be played when needed.
But we also need the pres to do his share, and, as long as he's got his head up vicente fox's butt, that ain't gonna happen.
I'm not; I'm a realist. And the fact that GWB is sorely lacking when it comes to protecting our borders is a reality. The fact that he's so tight with vicente fox is the reason why.
Oh sheesh, the simplistic sloagan, "Bush is fox's butt kisser, yada,yada,yada" again.
I guess that wraps your views in a nice package while the reality is much different.
Maybe I'll find a new screen name. :-P