Gov. Urged to Call Border Emergency
Schwarzenegger resists the tactic as lawmakers seek money to fight crime associated with illegal immigration from Mexico.
Times Staff Writer
August 26, 2005
SACRAMENTO — Pressure built Thursday within Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's own party for him to follow the example of Democratic governors in New Mexico and Arizona and declare a state of emergency along the Mexican border.
Even though Schwarzenegger insists that border conditions aren't dire enough to justify such a declaration — and that California law would not permit it anyway — four Republican lawmakers announced plans to introduce legislation that would give the governor explicit authority to declare an emergency because of illegal immigration.
"There is no question the problem of illegal immigration has reached emergency proportions," said one of the lawmakers, Assemblyman Ray Haynes, whose Murrieta district covers parts of Riverside and San Diego counties. He said migrant trafficking often makes people in his district fear for their lives.
Earlier this month, emergency declarations by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson freed up more than $2 million to deal with human trafficking, drug smuggling, kidnapping, murder and destruction of property along their borders.
Since then, bipartisan pressure has been building in California for Schwarzenegger to bolster order efforts with money diverted from other state projects.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) had urged Schwarzenegger last week to declare a state of emergency in Imperial and San Diego counties in order to leverage more state and federal money to deal with border troubles. Nuñez met Thursday with Mexican President Vicente Fox in Mexico City to discuss illegal immigration, among other issues.
Schwarzenegger responded to Nuñez on Wednesday with a letter, calling it "incorrect" to think that an emergency declaration would remedy the effects of illegal immigration.
"A declaration of emergency is not authorized in the absence of conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons or property beyond the means of local government to address," wrote Schwarzenegger. "Despite the dangers which exist to those who seek to cross the border illegally … the current situation in California does not rise to this level."
At a workers' compensation event Thursday in San Jose, Schwarzenegger said New Mexico and Arizona have worse crime — including killings, drug smuggling and human trafficking — than California suffers along its Mexican border.
The Republican lawmakers disputed that assessment in a news conference Thursday. They unveiled a draft bill that would add "illegal immigration" to the list of conditions — including drought, riot, epidemic and flood — that could give rise to state and local government declarations of emergency.
Though never in the past used to deal with illegal immigration, emergency declarations after earthquakes and electricity shortages have allowed governors to quickly tap funds and commandeer equipment and personnel to help local governments.
"I think the constituents we represent would say that it does rise to that level," said Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta). "They would say that the number of crimes in the rural backcountry of San Diego that I represent and Sen. Haynes represents … impact the rest of our infrastructure, our education system, our transportation system and public health system, that it is a crisis that meets the test for an emergency declaration."
Hollingsworth would not specify what kind of help he thought Schwarzenegger should provide if an emergency were declared.
"The governor then has the latitude to define what resources are available to him, what powers he can exercise," Hollingsworth said.
Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said the governor would probably support such legislation.
"It makes sense to broaden the authority of the governor under the Emergency Services Act," she said.
But Nuñez, speaking by phone with Capitol reporters after his meeting with Fox, said more legislation isn't needed to seek federal funds because the governor already has the authority to declare a state of emergency.
His staff distributed a Congressional Research Service memo dated Aug. 19 that concludes that "the types of concerns voiced by the governors of Arizona and New Mexico appear to fall within the parameters of the term emergency as defined" in the federal disaster relief and assistance act.
Nuñez called his conversation with Fox about illegal immigration "very lengthy" and "fruitful," and said Fox told him that the only way to solve the problem is for "both countries to do their fair share."
Fox "certainly didn't express support for calling a state of emergency," Nuñez said. But he did make clear that he wanted a strong relationship with California, Nuñez said.
More so than Republican lawmakers, Nuñez has blamed California's border troubles on the Bush administration, which has primary authority to control immigration.
"This lack of a coherent federal border policy is harming both California and Mexico," he wrote to Schwarzenegger on Aug. 18. "People are dying. The federal border enforcement effort is underfunded and is being threatened by vigilante groups."
It's no surprise to see bipartisan agreement on this issue, said Barbara O'Connor, a political science professor at Cal State Sacramento.
"The border states have real problems, and while they are cast largely as partisan, they really are bipartisan problems," she said.
Still, O'Connor said she sensed much political maneuvering in the flap over whether the governor should declare a state of emergency along the border.
She called Nuñez' visit to Mexico "brilliant," making him appear "statesmanlike" while Schwarzenegger busies himself fundraising for the November special election.
And Republican lawmakers, O'Connor said, were smart to draw attention away from Nuñez' visit by calling for legislation.
"The timing is not coincidental," she said.
he must be oblivious to what has been taking place.
ETA: That or he's afraid of losing the la raza vote.
It must be that CA doesn't have these problems as much as the other states do
Wasn;t he forced to back off of some border control statements he made about a month ago?
Maybe just a little bit
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apologizes for border comment
April 21, 2005
SACRAMENTO – Blaming his faulty English, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he misspoke when he suggested that California's border with Mexico should be closed to help solve the nation's illegal immigration problem.
Schwarzenegger made the remark while speaking to newspaper editors and publishers Tuesday. He said Wednesday he intended to say the border should be secured.
"Yesterday was a total screw-up in the words I used," the Republican said at a news conference. "Because instead of closing, I meant securing. I think maybe my English, I need to go back to school and study a little bit."
The governor's contrition seemed to quell the issue at the Capitol, where a key Hispanic lawmaker accepted the apology a day after criticizing the remark.
"I don't think the governor identifies himself with that kind of rhetoric," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat. "I don't know why he said it, but I'm very pleased he has totally removed himself from those folks who espouse that kind of hatred."
In his remarks Tuesday before the annual meeting of the Newspaper Association of America in San Francisco, Schwarzenegger said: "Close the borders in California and all across Mexico and in the United States Because I think it is just unfair to have all those people coming across, have the borders open the way it is, and have this kind of lax situation."
He backed away from those statements Wednesday, saying that while securing the border is an important issue – he does not want to close it.
"We have a terrific relationship with Mexico," Schwarzenegger said. "I filmed four movies in Mexico, I love to go on vacation to Mexico. We have a great trade agreement with Mexico."
Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, said that by securing the border, the governor means that existing immigration laws should be better enforced, and that there should be better security to ensure that people and goods cross back and forth properly.
Although a big bloc of Hispanic voters supported Schwarzenegger in the 2003 recall election, the governor's relationship with California's largest minority group has been uneasy since he took office. Hispanic leaders have criticized Schwarzenegger's unsuccessful efforts to cut public health and social services that would have hurt low-income families.
Most notably, however, the governor forced the Legislature to repeal a bill that granted driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Although Schwarzenegger since said several times he would accept some form of the legislation if security issues could be resolved, no compromise has been reached.
His remark about the border was taken as a further slight by some in the Hispanic community.
"That's not what we expected given the fact that the governor himself is an immigrant," said Francisco Estrada, a spokesman for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Harry Pachon, director of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California, said that even though the governor has apologized and retracted the statement, it comes at a time when anti-immigrant feelings are running high across the nation.
Nunez said the border-closing remark drew hundreds of e-mails to his office from "very, very racist people from across the state."
Nunez said he hoped the incident would prompt closer relations between Schwarzenegger and Mexican officials, saying the governor needed to do more than just apologize.
first he wants to close it down, and now he thinks there is no illegal activity along the Kommifonia border........
what an ass. He should not have appologized for his first statement, and just closed the damn thing.
Some of his closest advisores are probably "illegals".