In both a statement from his campaign headquarters and at his press conference last week, California gubernatorial hopeful Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged voting in 1994 for Proposition 187-the controversial measure to deny public education, welfare, and non-essential health care to illegal immigrants (which which was enacted with about 59% of the vote but was eventually struck down by federal courts). Although the Austrian-born Republican told reporters “I’m very much pro-immigrant” and “No one understands those [sic] problems more than me,” Schwarzenegger never backed down from or voiced regret for his support of “187” and, in fact, a spokesman went on to hold out the prospect that the he might well back the initiative again if it were ever placed on the ballot.
But, it appears, Schwarzenegger’s most recent statements on illegal immigration before last week to sharply contradict the apparent defense of “187” he is now vocalizing. Veteran political pundit Bill Bradley, writing in Los Angeles Weekly last week, recalled how in October of 2002, Schwarzenegger was speaking in San Francisco on behalf of Proposition 49, the statewide initiative he crafted to provide taxpayer-funded after-school programs. Asked by a member of the audience at the Commonwealth Club at the Fairmont Hotel about his “current thinking on 187”, Bradley reported, the bodybuilder replied: “I would never stand in the way of any child going to school, whether he or she is here legally or illegally, it does not matter.” (The audience, Bradley went on to report, gave Schwarzenegger “a standing ovation” for his response).
For conservatives, Bradley’s report would appear to raise doubts over how committed a “Gov. Schwarzenegger” would be to resurrecting Proposition 187. And it would also appear to put the candidate at odds with his campaign co-chairman, former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who championed “187” and rode it to a landslide re-election in 1994. (Four days before Schwarzenegger’s press conference, Wilson appeared on ABC-TV’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos and, without hesitation, defended his position on illegal immigration).
As to why most of the media has so far missed the contradiction in Schwarzenegger’s statements on “187,” Bradley notes that, with “many other reporters on hand for Schwarzenegger’s Commonwealth Club speech, [c]an you say starstruck? Lack of memory is a factor, too.”
“So how does the [Schwarzenegger] campaign reconcile his nine-year-old pro-187 vote with the anti-187-statement of last year?” concluded Bradley, “After more than a week it hasn’t yet. Just one of those pesky details yet to emerge.”
How about it, Arnold? Where do you stand on “187” today?