Governor urges immigrants to assimilate into U.S. culture
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that some Mexican immigrants “try to stay Mexican” when they come to the United States, and he urged them to assimilate into the fabric of American society.
Recalling his own experience emigrating from his native Austria, the Republican governor said immigrants should learn English and U.S. history and “make an effort to become part of America.”
“That is very difficult for some people to do especially, I think, for Mexicans because they are so close to their country here so they try to stay Mexican but try to be in America, so there’s this kind of back and forth,” he said.
“What I’m saying to the Mexicans is you’ve got to go and immerse yourself and assimilate into the American culture, become part of the American fabric. That is how Americans will embrace you,” he added.
Schwarzenegger’s comments were condemned by several Democrats supporting the candidacy of his rival in the November election, Phil Angelides. They depicted his remarks as part of a pattern of statements revealing insensitivity toward immigrants and others.
The governor’s “comments today were a calculated political insult to all immigrants,” California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres said in a statement.
Rep. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, said in a conference call organized by the Democratic Party that “it’s not the governor’s place to tell immigrants to abandon their language and their culture.”
The office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one of the state’s leading Hispanic politicians, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, declined comment through a spokesman.
The governor’s comments, after an event in Los Angeles, echoed an opinion piece he wrote in September, which was published in the Los Angeles Times. He was critical of protesters who waved Mexican flags at immigration rallies.
“The message that sends is that you do not want to learn our language or our culture,” Schwarzenegger wrote.
Julie Soderlund, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger’s campaign, said in a statement that “Phil Angelides’ brand of divisive politics rings hollow for immigrants and American-born Californians alike who share the governor’s view of the American dream.”
The dispute follows a controversy last month about Schwarzenegger’s choice of words. The governor apologized for saying in a taped, private meeting that the mixture of Hispanic and black blood gives Puerto Ricans and Cubans “very hot” personalities.