Throughout the economic recession, anti-immigrant groups have been eager to blame California’s budget woes on the state’s undocumented immigrants. However, yesterday, in an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) denied these accusations. While recognizing that undocumented immigration does pose some costs to the state, Schwarzenegger reiterated that the recession that California is experiencing is the result of a larger economic downturn, not immigration. And while the anti-immigrant crowd is quick to cite California’s economic troubles as a reason to clamp down on immigration, Schwarzenegger supports a more open policy that gives immigrants an opportunity to contribute to the state of California:
SCHWARZENEGGER: The fact of the matter is yes, it does create an extra burden on our economy and also on our budget situation. But, at the same time, that is not the reason why we have an economic downturn. This just was a crash that happened world-wide, it happened in all different countries all over the world. [...]
VAN SUSTEREN: Is immigration a factor in this state — I mean, what would you do about illegal immigration?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I’ve said many times we need immigration reform…we’ve got to go and make a decision so that people can come to this country legitimately, rather than having quotas there. Because we need the farm workers, we need the construction workers, we need people to do certain jobs that maybe we cannot fill otherwise. So I think we ought to provide that.
Schwarzenegger also appeared critical of those who are holding back immigration reform:
SCHWARZENEGGER: So, there are kinds of things like this that we ought to do in immigration reform and it ought to be done now. We should not every two years say: “this is not the right time,” “it is an election year,” “I think we should postpone it until next year.” It will never get done this way and we will always live in this kind of chaos. It’s living in denial basically, like ignoring that we have this major problem and people are coming across the border.
Schwarzenegger also pointed out that it’s “irresponsible” to welcome foreign students to study in the U.S. and then require them to leave once they are finished with their education. “I think they should stay here, they should work here, and they should take that knowledge that they have gained in California and put it to good use for California,” said Schwarzenegger.
A study by Manuel Pastor of the University of Southern California found that immigration reform would increase California’s “state and local tax base by about $350 million in the short run.” A separate study by Raul Hinojosa of the University of California, Los Angeles similarly found that immigration reform which includes a path legalization could generate at least $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years.