In some of the harshest terms he has used to date, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday said the federal government has left the nation's borders dangerously vulnerable while failing to come up with a sensible approach to immigration.
Schwarzenegger, taking questions at a news conference on a multibillion-dollar public works package passed by the Legislature early Friday, blamed the Bush administration and Congress for the massive street protests and widespread public unhappiness over federal immigration policy.
Marches in Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities, he said, "are an expression of frustration. People want to send a message to Washington that they're not happy with certain bills....
"I think that all of this comes down to one thing: The federal government has failed the people of America in a terrible way, in a disastrous way, when it comes to this immigration situation."
Schwarzenegger, who emigrated from Europe in 1968, called for better ways to police U.S. borders.
He chided federal policy-makers for letting the border problem "hang out there for 20 years and not do anything about it, when they knew this is a problem."
The governor voiced incredulity over what he described as porous borders that leave the U.S. exposed to terrorists.
Speaking at a middle school here, Schwarzenegger said that "to have a border that is not secure is to me staggering."
He scolded Congress for leaving Washington last month for spring recess, after a proposed deal to revamp the nation's immigration laws collapsed.
"For them to go home for spring break and not really take care of it when they know this was boiling here in this country is also irresponsible," he said.
Schwarzenegger called for "putting the pressure on the federal government [to] let them know they're responsible."
Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the White House, said Friday that the Bush administration "has gone to great lengths to improve border security, both in terms of financial resources and technology.
"We do acknowledge that we need to do more, and the president has been very clear that he is for a comprehensive immigration bill that will improve border security, improve interior enforcement and include a guest worker program."