State Sen. Tom Harman told local business leaders Tuesday that he supports sealing the state’s border with Mexico.
The comments came during a legislative breakfast meeting sponsored by the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Harman, who recently announced his reelection campaign, spoke of an array of issues ranging from illegal immigration to the water shortage.
Answering a question about immigration posed by Laguna Realtor Bobbi Cox, Harman, who claimed to have penned more bills against illegal immigration than any other state senator or assemblyman, said he has visited the border and is very troubled by the situation.
“We have a situation where the federal government has basically abandoned the states,” he said.
Harman cited statistics that $10 billion statewide is spent on educating, incarcerating and providing healthcare for illegal immigrants, and that one-third of the state’s inmates are here illegally.
He lauded the efforts of Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor, who supported an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offer to put an immigration agent in the Costa Mesa city jail to screen incoming arrestees for citizenship status.
Harman recommended first sealing the borders using technology like laser beams, drones or sound detectors, and then figuring out how to deal with the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.
“It is a major, major problem,” he said. “It is the single most hot-button issue in the district.”
Regarding, Laguna Beach’s day labor site, Harman said he disagreed with parts of an Orange County Superior Court judge’s ruling upholding the city’s funding of the center last month. The judge based his ruling in part on the fact that critics of the job site couldn’t prove that illegal immigrants used the site to obtain jobs, in violation of federal immigration laws.
“I’m concerned that they apparently don’t verify citizenship status,” Harman said of the site. “I’m opposed to any type of day labor center that does not provide any type of check. I am not particularly fond of the judge’s ruling.”
Water crisis looms
Legislators have been working for months with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to craft a bond measure to allocate billions of dollars for water projects, Harman reported.
Harman believes a water crisis is looming, due to the poor state of the levy system in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the plight of a tiny translucent fish.
In August, U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger shut down a pumping station serving the Delta due to the delta smelt, a fish listed on the endangered species list.
Estimates suggest the order is expected to cut some 30% of the state aqueduct system’s water transmission to points south; deliveries are set to be reduced by the end of the month, and local water agencies are bracing for the decline. Harman said to expect water rationing if the situation isn’t resolved soon.
The legislature hoped to get the water bond on the February ballot, but failed to get the plan ready in time, as ballots for overseas military go out today.
Out of 37.5 million state residents, 23 million receive their water from the delta system, Harman said. Laguna Beach is 100% dependent on imported water.
An earthquake or other natural disaster would cause the levies’ rupture, admitting salt water into the drinking water supply and thus contaminating it, Harman warned.
Health care plans
Several statewide health care plans have been proposed, but Harman didn’t see any of them as being viable or desirable.
“We think that our health care system is actually pretty good right now,” he said of the senate Republicans.
He expects no agreement will be made this year; it will instead be held over until next year’s session.
Harman also anticipates that the plan will be agreed upon without any funding mechanism; rather, the funding option will be put on the ballot next year for state citizens to decide.
Harman was particularly opposed to the concept of a universal health care plan, as modeled on the Canadian system.
“It is just doomed to failure,” he said.
Harman cited Caltrans and the DMV as examples of similarly botched bureaucratic efforts.
Harman expressed dismay about the state budget, which a November report from the state’s legislative analyst predicted will be more than $10 billion in the red when it is presented next year.
“We are looking at a situation where there will be a major situation with the budget,” he said.
In November, the governor asked his state departments to figure out how to cut 10% from each of their budgets.
“We’ve hit a kind of a revenue wall,” Harman said. “Our tax system in California is highly dependent on personal income tax.”
And personal income is highly susceptible to the fallout from current market conditions, Harman said.
Prisons on the brink
Harman also expressed concern that the state’s prison system, which was designed to hold 100,000 people, has ballooned to hold about 170,000, with inmates housed in gymnasiums and other unconventional places.
“We urgently need to build more prisons,” he said.
He also hopes to repel the efforts of a panel of federal judges who seek to release inmates early in order to mitigate the overcrowding issue.
“If you do the crime, you gotta do the time,” he said.
The Republican senator represents the 35th Senate District, which encompasses most of the county coastline.
He was elected last year to the State Senate in a special election, after serving as an assemblyman and on the Huntington Beach City Council.
Harman, an Orange County resident for nearly 50 years, served in the Army and as a lawyer before entering politics.
He serves as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s lead Republican.