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ELECTION WATCH : Border Brouhaha

With less than 10 weeks to go before Election Day, Gov. Pete Wilson is back on the Mexican border replaying a favorite campaign theme: illegal immigration. He even published an open letter to President Clinton complaining that Clinton had moved quickly to keep Cuban refugees out of Florida while continuing to turn his “back on California’s illegal immigration crisis.”

The Cuban analogy simply does not wash. Cuba presents essentially a diplomatic problem involving a longtime enemy of the United States. By contrast, Mexico is a friendly neighbor long depended on for plentiful labor.

Leaving aside the bogus Cuban comparison, we agree with some things the governor says. Yes, we should stop illegal immigration at the border. Illegal immigrants should not be entitled to government social benefits intended for citizens. Yes, some border-area hospitals are unduly burdened by foreign patients who abuse the public health system. And the federal government should help with the considerable expense placed on the state by immigrants.

But somehow Wilson never discusses the underlying magnet that draws the migrants here: jobs. Nowhere does he acknowledge that Californians use illegal immigrants for cheap labor. It is notable that his open letter omits any call for stronger enforcement of penalties, including fines and prison terms, on the employers of illegal workers.

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We see two problems here: illegal migration on the southern border and half-truths from the governor’s office.


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