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Arnold Schwarzenegger

At his latest town hall meeting, on the anniversary of his citizenship, the candidate outlines his views on immigration.

September 17, 2003|Joe Mathews | Times Staff Writer

On the day he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his American citizenship, Arnold Schwarzenegger told an audience of immigrants in Boyle Heights on Tuesday evening that he expected the recall election to go forward on Oct. 7.

Greeted with applause and a few chants of "Viva Arnold," Schwarzenegger said that despite the decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to delay the election, he "cannot believe that the courts will interfere" and ultimately move the election to March.

"The ultimate judges are the people," Schwarzenegger said. "And the people have spoken. The people have signed 1.6 million petitions to recall Gray Davis. That's why I know that on Oct. 7, we will recall Gray Davis and say, 'Hasta la vista, baby!' "

As Schwarzenegger spoke during the third in a series of hourlong "Ask Arnold" events he has conducted across the state, about 50 protesters -- many from unions, immigrants' rights groups and local community organizations -- chanted and marched on 1st Street. Their cries of "Hey hey, ho ho, Schwarzenegger has got to go" could be heard clearly inside the Hollenbeck Youth Center, site of the town hall-style meeting.

Among the protesters was farm labor leader Dolores Huerta, who handed out a letter signed by state legislators criticizing Schwarzenegger's opposition to a new law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

Inside the youth center, Schwarzenegger was challenged on the same issue by an unlikely questioner.

Jorge Olamendi, a restaurant manager and the brother of Schwarzenegger economic advisor Carlos Olamendi, said that the candidate was wrong to oppose driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.

"If they don't have a driver's license, they don't have registration, they don't have insurance," Jorge Olamendi said, saying that driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants would make the freeways safer.

"I respect your opinion," Schwarzenegger replied, but added that the new law meant that criminals and terrorists could get licenses and "bring danger to our state."

In all, Schwarzenegger took a dozen questions, answering most with familiar lines from his stump speech. He added a few new wrinkles, criticizing cuts to the state's fund for school textbooks and quoting an old speech of his father-in-law, Sargent Shriver, in urging immigrants to "tear down that mirror in front of you" and look for ways to give back to their adopted country.

Schwarzenegger also pledged to be so aggressive in pushing the federal government to cover more of the costs associated with immigration that "I will be known in Washington not as the Terminator but as the Collectinator."

Boyle Heights is a Latino neighborhood. The Schwarzenegger campaign filled the room with immigrants -- about half of them of Asian origin -- from as far away as Orange County and the South Bay.

The event followed the pattern of the earlier Ask Arnold events in Orange County and San Diego, with selected members of various groups favorably disposed to Schwarzenegger invited to the gathering.

Tuesday's event consisted of about 200 people drawn from more than 14 organizations, from the Assn. of Turkish Americans of Southern California to the South Bay Chinese American Bridge Club.

The questions asked by audience members are not screened, campaign officials say, but the queries from these selected audiences have generally been friendly.

After the town hall, Schwarzenegger conducted a contentious eight-minute news conference.

Schwarzenegger said he would make public his immigration records and criticized a Los Angeles Times story on his statements about women.

He praised his wife, saying that she had decorated their home with "at least 100 balloons from the floor to the ceiling" Tuesday morning and later gave him a big cake to celebrate the anniversary of his citizenship, which was granted in a ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium on Sept. 16, 1983.

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