For Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, there apparently is no such thing as illegal immigration.
Asked at Wednesday night's gubernatorial debate how much he would spend on health care for the children of illegal immigrants, Bustamante gave no dollar amount, of course. But he was clear on this: He does not believe the state should distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.
Bustamante has said as much before. Asked twice at a Walnut Creek Town Hall meeting what government services he believes the state should deny to illegal immigrants, Bustamante failed to name a single program or service.
The lieutenant governor supports the bill signed by Gov. Gray Davis that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses without undergoing the kind of background check needed to immigrate here legally. (Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Sen. Tom McClintock oppose the law, as it rewards those who flout federal law.)
When asked if he saw a distinction between legal and illegal immigrants earlier this month, Bustamante told reporters, "I think that anybody who works and pays taxes ought to have a right to citizenship."
U.S. citizenship is a right for non-Americans who break the law.
In Bustamante World, illegal immigrants should pay no penalty whatsoever. Au contraire, they should be rewarded with documents, tuition discounts and health care.
As for Californians who believe in enforcing immigration law -- well, their beliefs get no respect. To call for any limits on immigration, or any enforcement of immigration law, is to be anti-immigrant. Read: racist.
It doesn't matter when Gabriel Gomez, a third-generation Mexican American, tells the L.A. Times that his trade as a plumber is suffering. "When you get illegals doing the job for half the price, you can't compete," Gomez explained, adding that if there were fewer immigrants, "it would give opportunities for those of us who really deserve them."
It doesn't matter when American inner-city children fall behind in reading as they share classrooms with students who are learning a new language.
It doesn't matter if Los Angeles County is cutting back on health services because of the high cost of treating illegal immigrants.
It doesn't matter that California government is bleeding. (Trying to accumulate numbers on the cost of illegal immigration, the Pacific Research Institute found a legislative analyst's office estimate that taxpayers spent half a billion dollars on health care for illegals last year.)