Sinking Schwarzenegger Sidles Back To Immigration Issue
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It must be true because the New York Times says so: The Terminator is in trouble.[Schwarzenegger's Star Dipping as Californians Feel Its Singe, By Dean E. Murphy, May 2, 2005]

But the NYT missed a key point: If Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to be re-elected California's governor in 2006—and if he harbors political aspirations beyond Sacramento—he need only hang tough on his recent statements that he opposes illegal immigration and admires the Minuteman Project volunteers. (In his words [listen] the Minutemen did "a terrific job.")

Take it from someone who deals with people from all walks of life every day… Californians are incensed about illegal immigration.

To harvest votes from disgusted Californians, all Schwarzenegger has to do is repeat, in one form or another, the statement he made on Friday in Los Angeles:

"What I'm encouraging is to simply ask the federal government to do their job. Their job is to secure the borders, and they have not done their job. And when the government, the state or the country, doesn't do its job, then the private citizens go out and it's like a neighborhood patrol. It's like they then step in and they try to help."

That's Schwarzenegger's only request: "to simply ask the federal government to do their job."

Earlier in the week, Schwarzenegger did some mild waffling on illegal immigration.

Originally, Schwarzenegger suggested that the federal government "close the border." Then, under pressure from prominent state Hispanics, Schwarzenegger changed "closed" to "secure." 

Now, Schwarzenegger has altered his language to the on-target message that Washington should fulfill its obligation to Americans by protecting the border.

Of course, as governor, Schwarzenegger has no direct power to change federal policy. But he can use—and is apparently willing to use—the considerable influence of his office to persuade Washington to listen to the will of the people.

Schwarzenegger, a supporter of California's prescient Proposition 187, is rumored to have had contact with immigration reform experts before the 2003 recall race. In the end, however, he barely mentioned the issue. But now he seems to be speaking out.

Who cares what his motives are? We are, after all, only interested in political action that ends the immigration disaster.

But I suspect that Schwarzenegger is motivated by two considerations—each of equal importance to him.

As Schwarzenegger has said multiple times:

"I think the most important thing to note is I am a champion of immigrants. I promote immigration. I am an immigrant myself. I think it's extremely important that we do it in a legal way." ["Polls Push Governor to the Border", LA Times, April 30, 2005 ]

In nearly twenty years as a teacher at the Lodi Adult School I have yet to meet a legal immigrant who does not share Schwarzenegger's feelings.

Legal immigrants are, as a group, fed up at the government's failure to enforce the law.

And they know as well as anyone that illegal aliens heavily contribute to the financial disaster that is today's California.

  • Second, Schwarzenegger may not like what he sees in his political future. But he is savvy enough to realize that there's ground to be gained by following his heart and insisting immigration laws be obeyed.

Here, as of May 3rd, is my political balance-sheet for Schwarzenegger:

  • Schwarzenegger's approval rating has steadily declined to 43%, down nearly 10 points since January.

  • Independent voters are moving away from Schwarzenegger's camp.

  • He is a Republican in a state that is strongly Democratic.

  • And, of critical importance, Schwarzenegger is the governor who was elected, not for his political acumen, but because he represented a welcome relief from the detested then-Governor Gray Davis. But Schwarzenegger's honeymoon is over.

Some political observers scoff at the idea that Schwarzenegger's likely Democratic opponent, State Treasurer Phil Angelides, could pull off an upset in 2006.

Unlike other Democrats and Independents who supported Schwarzenegger during the early star-struck weeks, however, Angelides fought him all the way.

And Angelides, through his staunch opposition, finally forced Schwarzenegger to give up his unpopular public pension overhaul plan. [Gov. Making a Quiet Retreat, LA Times, April 10, 2005]

So what better way for the floundering Schwarzenegger to regain traction than to advocate upholding the federal laws regarding immigration—an issue he knows resonates with the public?

Sure, the nurses and teachers are mad at him.

But they know that the flood of illegal aliens has made their jobs more difficult—and in some cases impossible. Aliens have increased the nurses' workloads and, by virtue of their uninsured status, in some cases cost them their jobs by forcing some emergency clinics to close.

And the teachers, dedicated professionals though they are, cannot keep up with the numbers of new under-educated, non-English speaking students who enroll throughout the school year.

If Schwarzenegger continues to speak out against illegal immigration, hundreds of nurses and teachers might, in the privacy of the voting booth, support him despite their anger.

Then there is the question of who, candidate or non-candidate, can really present a coherent argument to what Schwarzenegger espouses—that the feds do what they are required to do?

Here's the nonsense from Schwarzenegger's opponents:

  • "Gov. Schwarzenegger has stooped and catered to the worst sentiments of division, fear and racism.'' Mark Silverman, Immigration Policy Director, Immigrant Legal Resource Center

  • "I hope the governor is ready to take responsibility for any deaths or other misdeeds that may result from them coming here and increasing tensions along the border." State Assemblyman Hector De La Torre

  • "He's condoning vigilantism and he's demonstrating a terrible understanding of California's relationship with Mexico which has to be based on cooperation - especially when it comes to border issues." Democratic Controller and possible 2006 gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly [Governor signals he'd welcome Minutemen on California border, James Sterngold, Mark Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, April 30, 2005]

My reaction: YAWN!

Schwarzenegger's game plan for 2006 must include ignoring these predictable charges.

If he has any inclination to take advice from the Open Borders Lobby, he should check with Bill Simon, Bill Jones, Matt Fong, Dan Lungren or any of the other Republican candidates for major California office who ignored immigration in their campaigns and lost decisively.

Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, said that the governor would welcome the Minutemen in California.

And the Minutemen plan to take Schwarzenegger up on his offer. They are tentatively scheduled to begin to patrol the California/Mexico border on October 1st.

If Schwarzenegger wants to make the strongest possible anti-illegal immigration statement, he should meet the volunteers at the airport.

Californians have been waiting for a long time for a politician who isn't afraid.

And Schwarzenegger may be just the right man.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.

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