California Governor Again Lauds Minuteman Project

May 9, 2005: California Governor Again Lauds Minuteman Project

Monday, May 9, 2005 (SF Chronicle)
CALIFORNIA/Governor again lauds Minuteman Project/U.S. lacks will to solve immigration problem, he says
Leslie Fulbright, Chronicle Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reiterated his support for the Minuteman
Project Sunday on Fox News, saying it is natural for citizens to rise up,if the federal government fails to patrol the border.

In an interview with Chris Wallace, Schwarzenegger said there is an outcry from the American people on immigration, and he implied the federal government could afford to spend more on securing the border if it were a priority.

“No one, Democrats and Republicans alike, really wants to go in there and really tackle the problem and then come up with a comprehensive solution to what we do with the undocumented immigrants that are in this country,” he said. “It's not a lack of money. When we can afford the war in Iraq, we can afford to control our own borders.”

The comments mark the third time in three weeks the governor has expressed his disappointment with what he sees as a problem with illegal immigration. The interview also touched on his approval ratings, state pension policy and the special election he hopes to have in November.

Schwarzenegger, who immigrated to the United States from Austria, first drew heat when he said that California needed to close the borders to control illegal immigration. After he was criticized, he apologized and said he meant government needed to do more to secure the borders

The following week, he praised the Minuteman Project, saying it did a terrific job in cutting the influx of illegal immigrants in Arizona. Sunday, he said he didn't endorse the Minutemen, but he went on to say the federal government is falling short of doing its job so he understands the group's motivation. “Americans doing the jobs our government won't do,” is the Minuteman Project's slogan.

The armed volunteers of the Minuteman Project who patrolled Arizona's border with Mexico in April are planning their first California patrols in August.

Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, said Sunday that he already has hundreds of volunteers for the project in the San Diego area. He praised the governor's position and said he will vote for Schwarzenegger in the next election.

“He is one of the few persons in politics who came out and said we are doing nothing wrong, that we had a right to assemble under the First Amendment,” Gilchrist said.

President Bush and the U.S. Border Patrol have criticized the Minutemen as interfering with law enforcement and posing a danger to citizens and immigrants trying to cross the border illegally.

“There is bound to be some gain for the governor with a pro-Minutemenstance, but I think it will be far outweighed by the loss,” said Harley Shaiken, a professor at UC Berkeley who specializes in labor issues. “At a minimum, it completely ignores the realities that draw people to California to work. It stirs the finger-pointing and passions that can be really destructive.”

Shaiken said he doesn't get the sense there has been a renewed call for change in the past year, or an outcry, as Schwarzenegger put it. Even if there had been, he said, citizens are not often encouraged to take matters into their own hands.

“A group of citizens putting business executives under house arrest so they stop hiring undocumented workers would probably be more productive than sending armed people to the border,” he said.

The governor's office said no one was available for comment Sunday.

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