Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Candidates in California governor's race avoid immigration issue

Candidates in California governor's race avoid immigration issue

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent comment that Mexican immigrants often fail to assimilate has injected the topic of immigration into the governor's race, but experts warn that politicians must tread lightly on the polarizing issue.
Until now, avoidance of the issue by Schwarzenegger and Democratic opponent Phil Angelides has been noticeable in a state that has more legal and illegal immigrants than any other. Polls routinely show immigration is among voters' top priorities.
"Both campaigns are afraid of it," said Michael Schroeder, former chairman of the California Republican Party. "With such high voter interest, if they make a mistake it could backfire on them."
But Thursday, recalling his own experience emigrating from Austria, the governor said immigrants should learn English and U.S. history and "make an effort to become part of America."
"That is very difficult for some people to do, especially, I think, for Mexicans because they are so close to their country here so they try to stay Mexican but try to be in America. So there's this kind of back and forth," he said.
The comments were swiftly condemned by Hispanic groups and Angelides supporters, with California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres labeling them "a calculated political insult to all immigrants."
Hispanic advocacy groups were also critical.
Some expect that Angelides, trailing badly in the polls, will use the remarks to argue that Schwarzenegger is prejudiced against Hispanics. He made a similar case last month after the governor said during a taped, private meeting that the mixture of Hispanic and black blood gives Puerto Ricans and Cubans "very hot" personalities.
Others, however, expect both camps may let the volatile issue die rather than risk alienating voters.
"Neither candidate is going to go hog-wild on this issue," said Democratic strategist Garry South. "There is always the reminder of Gov. Pete Wilson, who won the battle but lost the war."
Then a Republican incumbent, Wilson parlayed his support for a controversial ballot initiative denying almost all public services to illegal immigrants into a successful 1994 re-election campaign. The initiative was thrown out by the courts but its passage by voters prompted a fierce backlash in Hispanic communities. Many Hispanics registered to vote for the first time, and as a group Hispanics supported Democrats in overwhelming numbers.
Democrats have dominated California politics ever since, and Hispanics now make up about a fifth of the electorate.
Schwarzenegger's support among Hispanics took a nosedive last year after he praised the Minutemen volunteer border watch group on a talk radio show.
Since then, he has been working to improve his image. He has run ads on Spanish-language Univision, and met with the editorial board of La Opinion, the state's largest Spanish-language newspaper.
At the same time, he has been careful not to appear too accommodating to illegal immigrants. Attempting to appeal to conservatives through a Republican-sponsored advertisement distributed by telephone, Schwarzenegger is portrayed as tough on illegal immigration.


Updated : 2021-06-13 10:55 GMT+08:00