Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

California Plan Calls for Cutting Benefits to US Illegal Aliens IMMIGRATION DEBATE

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

California Plan Calls for Cutting Benefits to US Illegal Aliens IMMIGRATION DEBATE

Article excerpt

THE governor of America's most immigrant-populous state has added high-octane fuel to the nationwide debate over immigration. The new category of concern: illegals.

"We must repeal the perverse incentives that now exist for people to immigrate to this country illegally," California Gov. Pete Wilson said in a widely promoted Monday press conference.

Via an open letter to the White House "on behalf of the people of California," he detailed a broad plan to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented aliens and to cut off health and education benefits as well. The plan, faxed to the White House, calls for Congress to create a legal-resident eligibility card that would be required for all legal residents seeking benefits.

The program, which also urges using the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as "a tool to secure the cooperation of the Mexican government" has also been reprinted in full-page ads in several national newspapers.

Wilson said in his statement, "it is hard not to sympathize with and even admire illegal immigrants in their struggle to come to a better life."

But Wilson cited statistics estimating 2 million of the state's 31.5 million residents are in the state illegally, costing $2.3 billion in state funds annually in services mandated by Congress or the Supreme Court.

"It is also no longer possible to ignore or accept the magnitude of {illegals'} success in achieving illegal entry ... or its costs to the American people," he said.

Critics immediately accused the governor of weighing in on the immigration question as a means of boosting his historically low approval rating in time for the 1994 election. In May, a Field Poll found only 15 percent of Californians feel Wilson is doing a good or excellent job.

Dan Schnur, the governor's chief spokesman, says the capitol offices have been inundated with calls and letters, "virtually 100 percent behind the governor's proposals." Jim Sanders, news director of KOVR-TV, says he got virtually the same response in dozens of street interviews for a program entitled, "Your Turn."

Such response is the reverse of that which Wilson received two years ago when he made an offhand remark about the cost of illegals.

"The governor was vilified in public and press alike as a bigot, racist, and immigrant basher," recalls Mr. …

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