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Schwarzenegger talks tough on illegal immigration
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the nation's policy on preventing illegal immigration is too lax, telling a group of newspaper publishers the United States needs to "close the borders."

"Close the borders in California and all across Mexico and in the United States," Schwarzenegger said Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Newspaper Association of America. "Because I think it is just unfair to have all those people coming across, have the borders open the way it is, and have this kind of lax situation."

The Republican governor also suggested exploring several policy proposals aimed at addressing the immigration crisis, including President Bush's proposed guest worker program and legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to pave the way for undocumented workers already living in the United States to attain legal status.

"This is a very important debate. I think it's necessary that we solve the problems rather than try to run the other way. It's a hot issue," Schwarzenegger said.

Schwarzenegger's remarks were later clarified by his spokeswoman, Margita Thompson, who said the governor supports greater security along the nation's borders but was not calling for the borders to be completely closed.

"The governor has talked before about the need to ensure that immigrants are put on a path toward fully participating in California's economy," Thompson said. "But he feels they need to enter the country the right way, and must not undermine important security issues. He feels that the border needs to be secure."

It's not the first time Schwarzenegger, who emigrated to the United States from Austria as a young man, has become entangled in the emotional debate surrounding illegal immigration. During the recall election, Schwarzenegger was repeatedly asked to explain why he had voted for Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot measure to deny many basic services to illegal immigrants. And shortly after entering office, he derailed a law passed and signed by former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis that would have allowed illegal immigrants to apply for drivers licenses.

In February, Schwarzenegger endorsed Congressional legislation authorizing the construction of a fence along California's border with Mexico. The proposal has sparked opposition from the state's Coastal Commission, as well as many environmentalists and Democrats.

In a statement, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said Schwarzenegger's comments reflected badly on the state's "productive" relationship with Mexico.

"The Governor should ratchet down his rhetoric and retreat from this narrow-minded approach to immigration policy," Nunez said. "Closing our borders to commerce and culture is an idea that comes from political extremists, not rational policy-makers."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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