Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday urged that the U.S. “close the borders” to combat illegal immigration, though an aide quickly clarified his comment, explaining that the governor merely wants the borders better policed.
Schwarzenegger, taking questions at the Newspaper Assn. of America convention, described border security as a “lax situation” and urged tougher measures.
He said “it is just unfair to have all those people coming across and have the border open the way it is....”
Noting that states have limited powers in immigration matters, Schwarzenegger said the U.S. should “close the borders in California and all across -- within Mexico and the United States.”
Before he finished speaking, his press secretary, Margita Thompson, hurried over to reporters to explain that the governor meant to say that the nation’s borders should be more tightly patrolled, not closed.
“He wants to make sure that our borders are secured so that we don’t have illegal entry,” Thompson said.
Schwarzenegger is an immigrant who came to the U.S. from Austria in 1968. He spoke little English at the time. He is occasionally imprecise in his speech, and the governor’s staff privately said this was one of those instances.
State Sen. Gil Cedillo is a Los Angeles Democrat who has been attempting to persuade Schwarzenegger to approve issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
He said that in his discussions with Schwarzenegger, he did not get the impression that the governor advocated anything so Draconian as shutting down borders.
In any case, such a step would be “incomprehensible” given that “our economy and current prosperity are so dependent on the immigrant workforce,” Cedillo said.