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Q&A

Gourley Says the Border Needs Order

August 18, 1991

Steven Gourley, 42, Culver City councilman and former mayor.

Claim to fame: Elected to the council in 1988, he quickly established himself as his city's leading Los Angeles-basher. Early this year, he attracted widespread attention with a proposal that barricades and military patrols be set up at the Mexican border to halt the flow of illegal immigrants.

Background: Gourley, raised in Westchester, graduated from UCLA with honors in political science. He earned a law degree from UC Berkeley.

A Democrat and slow-growth advocate, Gourley has lived in Culver City for 14 years.

Interviewer: Times staff writer Bernice Hirabayashi.

Q: What do you think are the biggest problems facing Culver City?

A: Traffic, development, crime and money.

Q: What is the problem with traffic?

A: Most of the traffic problems are from Los Angeles development. Culver City could develop every square inch to three times the density it is now and it wouldn't have one-tenth the effect as Los Angeles has on it.

Q: How does this affect Culver City?

A: The traffic is going to come through Culver City. Residential development impacts us additionally because people need parks. L.A. doesn't have them. They come to Culver City. Also, Los Angeles causes a tremendous impact upon our police because 80% of the people that we arrest are from outside Culver City--everything from traffic citations to serious violent crime. And that gets back to the issue of money, because close to 60% of our budget is fire and police. No matter how law-abiding our community is, we have to deal with the criminals who come from outside of our community.

Q: What can be done about this?

A: I don't know. My feeling is Los Angeles is ungovernable. It's too big. The school district can't handle the schools, the city can't handle its city government and the area they police is just far too big to deal with, and too diverse.

Q: Is it your view that many of Los Angeles' problems stem from illegal immigration? A: One of my favorite topics is illegal immigration, and no one seems to want to do anything about that. According to the L.A. Times, 25% of the (local) jail population is illegal immigrants--and not for being illegal immigrants, but for other types of crime. We have enough trouble with people who were born here committing crimes. Why are we allowing 500,000 people across the border every year?

Q: That's legally or illegally?

A: Illegally. We're allowing 700,000 every year legally (nationwide). And of course, many of the 700,000 that are coming in legally, as well as the 500,000 that are coming in illegally, are settling in Southern California. People claim that I'm being racist when I say it, but as a liberal I was always told that lack of education and poverty cause crime. Well, if that's the case, when you allow 500,000 poor, illiterate people into the country every year, are you not encouraging crime?

Q: But they are not purposely let in.

A: But we're not doing anything about it.

Q: What more can be done? We have a Border Patrol.

A: The Border Patrol is hopelessly small and underfunded.

Q: Bringing the issue home, how should Culver City deal with all these outsiders?

A: You can't pull up the drawbridge, unfortunately. The best thing that we can do is continue to keep ourself small and responsive and local and pay attention to our problems.

Q: You stirred up a fuss back in March with some statements about illegal immigration. Would you recap your views?

A: I didn't think it was controversial until people started coming after me. Think of it in these terms: You know what the state's budget problem is, you know what the county's problem is, you know what all the little-city problems are. Well, imagine 10 Culver Cities coming across the border every year. But those are not 10 Culver Cities of plumbers and engineers and doctors and lawyers and college-educated and high school-educated people. Those are 10 Culver Cities coming across the border every year of illiterate people, with large families, with diseases, with social problems, who cannot speak English and who are, to a great extent, unemployable in the United States.

Q: What do you think happens to them?

A: I think they get thrown into ghettos. I think they get exploited. I think that there's basically a slave trade going on in the United States based on these people.

Q: What kind of slave trade?

A: In agriculture and the garment industry, for example. As long as there's a constant influx, salaries will always be very, very low and rents will always be very, very high for these people.

Q: So what else were you saying?

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