Rich Lowry

Democrats think they have found an early chink in the Terminator's armor: Arnold Schwarzenegger voted for Proposition 187 to deny state benefits to illegal immigrants. This is considered a scandal, demonstrating Schwarzenegger's backwardness and bigotry.

If so, he has plenty of company. More than 5 million Californians voted for the proposition in 1994, which passed with 59 percent of the vote. The ballot initiative was an appropriate reaction to the federal government's inability to police the nation's borders, and the fiscal burdens consequently placed on California. "It was one of the loudest and clearest taxpayer revolts since the Boston Tea Party," says former California Gov. Pete Wilson, who campaigned for the initiative while he was in office.

Ever since Proposition 187 passed, liberals have been engaged in a war against it, scuttling it in the courts, smearing its supporters as racist and arguing that it has catastrophically harmed the Republican Party's standing among Hispanics. Wilson says the anti-187 campaign is based on "mythology" meant to "intimidate Republican officeholders." "Unfortunately," he adds, "a number of Republican officeholders have indeed been intimidated."

This has kept almost anyone in mainstream politics from talking about one of the severest problems facing California. Wilson is now a co-chairman of Schwarzenegger's campaign. His attitude is that if Democrats want to make an issue of Proposition 187 -- bring it on. "If it was on the ballot today," he says, "it would pass again by the same margin, maybe more."

Schwarzenegger hasn't yet talked about Proposition 187 (or anything else), but he cannot address California's woes without tackling the issue of immigration. Consider what uncontrolled immigration has wrought. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies has tallied the numbers.

The state's health-care crisis is largely driven by immigrants. There are roughly 7 million people in California without health insurance. About 4 million of them are immigrants or the young children of immigrants.

Half of all welfare usage in the state is from immigrant households, and 32 percent of all illegal-immigrant households receive benefits from at least one welfare program. The average welfare payment -- just counting the four major welfare programs -- to illegal-immigrant households is $1,400 a year.

Half of all kids in the public-school system are from immigrant families, a dramatic increase in the number of kids in schools without a corresponding increase in the tax base. About half of immigrants are too poor to pay any income taxes.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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