Schwarzenegger, Lawmakers Talk Immigration Reform At USC
Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted a forum on immigration reform Tuesday at the University of Southern California, opening discussions on key immigration issues with Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and university professors.
“The life I’ve lived, the careers that I’ve had, and the successes I’ve had were possible only because I immigrated to the one place [where] nothing is impossible,” he said in his opening remarks. “To me, President Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill was never just a beautiful metaphor."
California is home to about one quarter of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country. Nearly one in 10 California workers are staying in the U.S. without necessary documentation.
A bipartisan coalition of eight senators, also known as the Gang of Eight, unveiled a sweeping immigration bill earlier this month that would allow unauthorized immigrants to apply for citizenship as the government works to secure borders.
The pathway to citizenship can take as long as 10 years before an immigrant can get a green card or permanent residency.
“This is not a path to amnesty,” said Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), a member of Gang of Eightl. “They have to get back in the line behind everybody else who’s already been in line before.”
When asked what it would take for the House of Republicans to all get on board and turn the immigration reform bill into law, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would appeal to his colleagues’ “basic instincts” that they need to attract Latino voters who re-elected Obama and abandoned the Republicans during the November presidential election.
“I appeal to the better angels of their nature that we shouldn’t have 11 million people in our society living in shadows,” McCain added.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the immigration bill.
“The bottom line in this debate must be full citizenship. There can be no second-class citizens,” said Villaraigosa.
Villaraigosa also emphasized the economic influence of the immigration reform, citing “a $1.5 trillion shot in the arm” over the next decade if the 11 million undocumented immigrants are legalized. His second term as mayor of Los Angeles ends on June 30, when he will be replaced by the winner of May election between City Controller Wendy Greul and Councilmember Eric Garcetti.
Villaraigosa explained in strings of numbers his passion for immigration reform is “not just for nostalgic reasons,” but for the “economic future” and “social cohesion” of the city.
“I’m proud to trace back my lineage to Mexico,” said Villaraigosa. “But my grandfather got here 100 years ago. I’m an Angeleno.”