California GOP gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have each penned their own opinion pieces in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. After reading both pieces, my sense is that Meg Whitman is trying to position herself to be a bit more ‘moderate’ on the illegal immigration issue at least relative to Steve Poizner.
Regarding Meg Whitman’s piece, I thought that the first part was particularly interesting, most notably her expressed use of the words ‘divisive’ and ‘disrespectful’:
“Too often, the rhetoric surrounding this issue has been overly divisive and disrespectful to Latino American citizens. The country needs to have a thoughtful debate about how we stop the tide of illegal immigration that strains budgets and angers taxpayers. But the immigration debate must take place in a measured way that reflects our national aspirations toward tolerance, hope and opportunity.
As a Republican, I believe it’s important to both continue our rich tradition of protecting the rule of law while diligently reaching out to the millions of Latinos who share our values.
While I am a strong proponent of legal immigration, I am 100% opposed to granting amnesty to immigrants who entered the country illegally. It is the wrong policy for California, it is the wrong policy for America, and it is grossly unfair to those immigrants who have followed the law to obtain legal status.”
And I thought this portion about her expressed opposition to Proposition 187 was somewhat ironic given the prominence of former California Governor Pete Wilson in her campaign (remember that Wilson was a big proponent of this ballot initiative, which was eventually declared unconstitutional):
“I have been criticized for opposing Proposition 187, which was on the California ballot in 1994. It is true that I am opposed to cutting off public education and healthcare services to immigrant children. I do not believe that kids should be punished for the sins of their parents.”
As for Steve Poizner, I thought that this part was particularly telling:
“Above all, California has too many policies that reward illegal aliens and act like magnets, drawing them to and keeping them in our cities and communities. We have to change those policies.
Ten other states, including neighboring Arizona, have passed laws to cut taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants. We need such legislation too. In this time of fiscal crisis, we can’t afford to subsidize the presence of illegal aliens.
One taxpayer-funded benefit for illegal aliens that should be stopped is in-state tuition at our public colleges and universities. Today, California is one of just 10 states that allow illegal immigrants access to reduced college tuition at taxpayer expense.”
For Steve Poizner, the last paragraph made me immediately think, “Forget about it DREAM Activist students — this guy is not in your corner.” One of the reasons why California has in-state tuition for undocumented students is that many of these kids have been excelling in school despite the odds and did not have a choice in how they arrived here as small children. Furthermore, many of these young people no longer have connections to their homeland, as they have been living here in California for years.
And in my quick reading of both opinion pieces, I did notice that Poizner used the term ‘illegal alien‘ while Meg Whitman did not. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has called this term, as well as ‘illegal immigrant’ dehumanizing. While I am not as offended by the term ‘illegal immigrant,’ I know that many in our community are, and if language is power and semantics make a difference, I think that both candidates would be wise to read the NAHJ statement on terminology.
In the end, I do think that Steve Poizner has dug himself a hole with the illegal immigration issue, and he is very unlikely to emerge from it as he is trailing so far behind in the polls. Even today’s LA Times has a pretty good piece explaining why more Californians are not taking the bait regarding illegal immigration, as many people have come to the realization that there are fewer immigrants coming to the country in this global economic downturn.