Villaraigosa in Washington on immigration, transportation issues

Villaraigosa in Washington on immigration, transportation issues
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivers his "State of the City'' address at Paramount Studios in 2012. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

WASHINGTON -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may be nearing the end of his term, but that isn’t keeping him from traveling to the nation’s capital to push two of his pet causes – an overhaul of immigration laws that would provide a path to legal status and citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally and increased federal funding for transportation projects.

Villaraigosa, whose term ends June 30, said again that he would like to be California governor one day.


"But the last time I looked, there is somebody in the job," he said during his visit Thursday. He said he expects Gov. Jerry Brown to seek reelection. 

Villaraigosa was due to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Thursday to push for passage of a comprehensive immigration bill. The mayor, who also was meeting with administration officials, is due to meet with President Obama on Friday.

He was hopeful of the Senate passing immigration legislation but was less certain about the Republican-controlled House.

"You have a majority of House members on the Republican side who believe in the deportation of 11 million people," Villaraigosa said. He said the bill’s fate could depend on whether House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is willing to bring a bill to the floor, even if it lacks majority support from his own fellow Republicans.

"I think they clearly don't want these new citizens to impact the next few election cycles," he said.

There are elements of the bipartisan Senate immigration bill put together by the so-called Gang of Eight that trouble Villaraigosa, including the 13-year path to legal status and citizenship, which he regards as too long.

"But it's the price you have to pay when there is such a chasm of opinion on the issue."

He said the bill was important to Los Angeles where he said one of 10 residents is undocumented.

Villaraigosa spoke while having lunch with San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, who was in Washington meeting with administration officials on a number of subjects, including his concern that federal budget cuts could threaten his city’s annual Fleet Week celebration later this year. The Navy recently canceled the usual appearance by the Blue Angels flight demonstration team.

Villaraigosa said he also is talking with administration officials about a new transportation bond where the federal government would pick up the interest cost "as close to 100% as possible."

Villaraigosa said that after his term expires June 30, he will take time to reflect but plans to remain politically active. He said he will attend the White House Correspondents’ Assn. dinner this weekend.