Arnold on centrist path

first_imgSAN FRANCISCO – As congressional Republicans wrangled over deportations, detentions and other get-tough measures on illegal immigration, another Republican spent this week hugging newly naturalized immigrants and enthusiastically hosting Mexican President Vicente Fox. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is charting a different political course from conservatives in Washington this election year, emphasizing tolerance and pragmatism over a hard-line border lockdown. “He is trying to deal with immigration not just from the loud voices on the left and the loud voices on the right, but to find a place where you can deal with the whole breadth of the issue,” said Matthew Dowd, Schwarzenegger’s chief campaign strategist. “He’s not your standard Republican,” said Dowd, a former Democrat who also was lead strategist in President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. “When he disagrees with the administration, he’ll raise that with them, and when he agrees, he’ll raise that too.” As the immigration debate in the Senate neared its climax this week, Schwarzenegger traveled to San Francisco to address an audience of 1,100 newly sworn U.S. citizens. The Austrian immigrant highlighted his own journey to citizenship 23 years ago, saying he “never felt prouder than when I became an American citizen.” “You hear so much these days about the cost of immigration in this county,” Schwarzenegger said at San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium. “Let’s not forget about all the great things that immigrants contribute to this country.” Another California Republican, Rep. Gary Miller, took a different tack. Earlier this month, when millions thronged the streets to highlight immigrants’ role in the American economy, the conservative congressman posted this on his official Web site’s “Outrage of the Week”: “Too bad their protest didn’t include giving up government-paid social services – because a day without illegal aliens would be a boon to U.S. taxpayers.” Aides to the governor say his appearance at the naturalization event and his meeting Thursday with Fox were on his schedule for weeks, and not intended to set him apart from congressional conservatives. But they don’t dispute that the contrast – particularly to the tougher House bill – is there. “I wouldn’t use the word `deliberate.’ It’s just a fact,” Dowd said. For instance, Schwarzenegger opposes the House bill’s provision making one’s undocumented presence in the United States a felony, he said. It’s been 12 years since voters ignited a national movement on illegal immigration by approving Proposition 187, which would have stripped illegal immigrants of most state services. The courts struck it down, but that fallout from that fight looms large here any time politics and immigration collide. “Republicans in California have seen what happens on the statewide scale if they lean too far to the right on this issue,” said Phil Trounstine, who served as communications director for Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Davis’s predecessor, Republican Pete Wilson, was re-elected with the help of Proposition 187, said Trounstine, now the director of the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University. “But he wiped out Republican chances for building a base among Latinos in California. He drove the Latinos into the arms of the Democrats,” Trounstine said. Today, Hispanics constitute about 14 percent of the California electorate. “Schwarzenegger, it appears, is determined not to repeat that mistake,” Trounstine said. “It’s a difficult fence to straddle, because his own base is split on the issue.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Schwarzenegger advocates tough border enforcement, and at one point last year he embraced the Minutemen militia border-patrol movement. But he has raised the sharpest questions of any border governor about Bush’s plan to send National Guard troops to the Mexican line to back federal border-control efforts. He has demanded the Bush administration answer questions about the logistics, duration and financing of the deployment, and refused to commit his National Guard until then. He actually is aligned more closely with Bush and Senate Republicans on immigration than with House Republicans. Bush and Schwarzenegger both want a temporary guest-worker program. The House passed an immigration-reform bill in December that makes illegal presence in this country a felony, mandates building two-layer fences along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and provides no path to legal residency or citizenship for illegal immigrants. It’s the symbolism and messages in Schwarzenegger’s recent appearances that signal his political aims. last_img