Schwarzenegger remarks draw Demo criticism
LOS ANGELES - Weighing in on illegal immigration, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that volunteers patrolling the Mexican border have "done a terrific job," and called for the removal of a Spanish-language TV station's provocative billboards.
Schwarzenegger, speaking to talk-radio hosts known for criticizing and campaigning against illegal immigration, said the Minuteman Project in Southern Arizona had been successful in securing the border.
"I think they've done a terrific job, and look, they've cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants by a huge percentage," the governor said. "It just shows that it works when you go and make an effort. I mean it's a doable thing, and it's just that the federal government is not doing their job."
The Republican governor's comments came a week after he faced a barrage of criticism for telling a gathering of newspaper publishers that the United States needed to "close the borders." He apologized the next day, blaming his faulty English.
California Democrats criticized the governor's remarks, noting that President Bush has called the Arizona volunteers "vigilantes."
Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate, accused the governor of trying to appeal to conservatives to counter slipping job approval ratings.
"He's going after immigrants, much like (former governor) Pete Wilson did," De La Torre said. "Scapegoating and immigrant-bashing is the last refuge of a wounded politician."
Schwarzenegger, speaking to the afternoon drive-time, also called on KRCA-TV to take down its new billboards.
The billboards, which Schwarzenegger called "extremely divisive," identify the station's market as "Los Angeles, Mexico." About 75 are going up around Southern California.
"I think the big mistake is that it promotes illegal aliens to come in here. And it's the last thing that we need," the governor said.