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Dems: Targeting immigrants will hurt state

Republicans say services given to illegal immigrants deepen state deficit. Dems counter workforce is too reliant on immigrant labor.

March 26, 2008|By Chris Caesar

Republican legislators teamed up to unveil what one deemed a “comprehensive” plan to deal with California’s illegal immigration problem in Sacramento Tuesday, packaging 22 GOP bills their sponsors say provide crucial reforms that will curb the state’s budget crisis.

Local Democrats were critical of the plan, saying targeting the state’s illegal immigrant population would only hurt state revenues. Republicans countered that the price of providing services to illegal immigrants poses a serious cost to California taxpayers and further burdens the state’s $16-billion deficit.

“Both Republicans and Democrats are getting pressure on the budget issue, and there are a lot of programs that have to be cut,” said Assemblyman Jim Silva, who organized the plan and news conference. “What we’re trying to do here is take out the loopholes in the budget process where we’re losing money and make sure it goes to the citizens of California.”

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“The state is in a financial life raft that is sinking,” he added. “The California Assembly Republicans have now offered a number of solutions.”

“I think this is all ridiculous,” Orange County Democratic Party chairman Frank Barbaro said. “We have become incredibly addicted to this workforce — I don’t know what California would do without the Latino immigration that we have, whether it’s legal or illegal…we’d be up a creek without a paddle.”

Silva hopes that his bill, which would add “illegal immigration” to the list of situations in which the governor may declare a state of emergency, would provide additional funding for the state’s Border Patrol operations.

A full list of the proposed bills are available at: http://republican.assembly.ca.gov/members/a67/Index.aspx?page=PR&pr=4516

Other local Republican lawmakers were also present for the unveiling and expressed hope their bills would get some traction in spite of the Democratic majority. Assemblyman Chuck DeVore had two bills in the package: one that would no longer exempt illegal immigrants from non-resident tuition fees, and another that would bar state contracts with businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

“I think one of the things Mr. Silva wanted to point out was that, for example, New Mexico and Arizona both have Democratic governors, but have been far more diligent [than California] in taking a look at all of their state policies and fine tune them to close loopholes for people not legally in this country,” DeVore said. “Let’s examine all the things we do differently in California and fix it.”

Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said her office does not comment on legislation before it reaches the governor’s desk, but said the governor welcomed support in securing California’s borders.

Efforts to reach Assemblyman Van Tran, whose proposal to require the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to check the immigration status of its prisoners was included in the Republican’s package, were unsuccessful.


CHRIS CAESAR may be reached at (714) 966-4626 or at chris.caesar@latimes.com.

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