Randal Archibold reports in today's New York Times article "State Strikes Balance on Immigration" that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has created balance with his case-by-case judgements on immigration bills (October 14, 2007). Archibold reports that "Mr. Schwarzenegger, pleasing immigration advocates and Latino groups, signed a measure that prohibits cities from requiring landlords to check whether tenants are in the country legally" while he also "vetoed a bill to allow new citizens to register to vote on Election Day if their naturalization ceremonies were held less than seven days before an election." Right-winged and left-winged advocates seem to be harolding Scwarzenegger's praises for creating harmony with his approach on immigration, but is his split loyalty's (also seen as a "fair approach") long term affects going to harm California rather than help it?
His elected officials and political analysis boldly state the short-term happiness:
“I think the governor signed this bill for the right reason,” said Assemblyman Charles Calderon, the Los Angeles-area Democrat who sponsored the landlord bill, “but clearly it was a tactical move on his part. This allows him to say, ‘I am not anti-immigration because I signed the Calderon bill.’ It’s great cover for him.”
While it is wonderful for Schwarzenegger and his officials, is the only reason why he signs certain bills is because he wants to have a "great cover"? While politics is largely about making the choices that please the people, it is also about making the choices that are better for the people regardless of what the passionate mob might be chanting. Schwarzenegger is trying to appease the crowd, as Archibold says, "giving a little to both sides," but the question still remains, what about the long-term affects of Schwarzenegger's approach?
At some time there will come a point where Schwarzenegger will give too much to one side and will slip up. One side or the other will claim he has not given enough and Schwarzenegger, aiming to please, will give over too much in order to make up for his mistakes. And in his effort to take on the bills in a case-by-case scenario, how can he and his officials keep track of the decisions they have made either for or against immigration? Even if they were able to keep track, how can the monitors those bills that support immigration that might contradict those which are against immigration?
Arnold Schwarzenegger has done a grand job in making sure he has established himself as for and strict against immigration. But that leaves the people, who elected him because of where he stands on issues, wondering where he stands on immigration. They cannot predict how he will "judge" a bill unless they too are monitoring how he just signed the last immigration bill that approached his desk. Schwarzenegger needs to not "play fair". His collection of "pro-immigration" bills are going to collide with his "anti-immigration" bills like medicines that don't mix, leaving California in a frenzy to clean up his citizen-pleasing mess. Schwarzenegger can pick to be for immigration or against immigration, he just needs to decided on a side.
Schwarzenegger also needs to realize that allowing illegal immigrants to rent a home is quite different from letting naturalized citizens vote or not vote right before the elections. One is naturalized and one is "illegal", and the two are very different. There was no balance in how he treated immigrants when he vetoed one bill and passed another, and in fact his allowing of illegal immigrants to move into homes without needing to show identification is more like a slap in the face to the immigrants who went through the trouble to become naturalized.
Schwarzenegger's efforts to create a balance by being a governor for both sides of the immigration battle is incredibly unbalanced. He treats illegal immigration with lazy control, and yet restrict the immigrants who are now naturalized. Sooner or later this kind of case-by-case judgement and unharmonious collaboration of decisions will come to haunt Schwarzenegger as Californian residents begin to realize the consequences of not having a governor who stands with a foot on each side of the issue. And as most often with politics, this will happen sooner rather than later.