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Schwarzenegger Ducks Immigration In State Address

by Rene P. Ciria-Cruz

Schwarzenegger Plays The Race Card As Ratings Sink

(IPS) -- As if deciding to steer clear of a bully, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his State-of-the-State address avoided dealing with the immigration issue, hinting at it only once, without daring to say its name.

"California's population is expected to increase by as much as 30 percent over the next 20 years," he said. "Our systems are at a breaking point. We need more roads, more hospitals, more schools...We cannot bury our heads in the sand and say, 'If we don't build it they won't come.'"

There: "They won't come." Immigration.

Schwarzenegger clearly shares the mistaken belief held by 53 percent of state residents that immigration is the biggest cause of the state's population growth, as a recent Public Policy Institute Poll showed (only 12 percent realize that births to residents are mainly responsible for the growth). But why push it if you're trying to be a moderate, after having failed to bully your enemies in last November's special elections? So the governor chose discretion.

Perhaps Schwarzenegger also senses that the electorate may not be decisively sold on a hard line. Polls show that public opinion in the country, contrary to perceptions, is at the very least divided on how to pursue immigration reform.

A Dec. 15-18 Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 61 percent of respondents prefer a lenient policy that would give undocumented immigrants the chance to keep their jobs and apply for legal status. The poll also showed that to Americans, immigration is the fourth most important issue (after Iraq, the economy and health care) Congress must deal with in 2006.

But syndicated columnist Marcela Sanchez believes the House may have killed immigration reform for this year by approving the harsh Sensenbrenner bill (it makes illegal immigration a felony), which the Senate is likely to reject.

Sanchez also notes that a Manhattan Institute poll in October of registered Republicans showed that 58 percent also favored earned legalization and that two-thirds of these Republicans would look kindly on President Bush if he supported such a plan.

So while the Sensenbrenners and Tancredos in Congress may be pandering to Minutemen and other xenophobes, the electorate, including most Republicans, are eager not for an all-out crackdown and the deportation of the undocumented, but for a more humane and pragmatic approach to reform. The newly "moderate" Schwarzenegger should keep this in mind because he won't be able to steer clear of the immigration issue forever in the multi-ethnic state of California.

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Albion Monitor January 5, 2006 (

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