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State Journal: Slamming the immigration 'magnet'

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An unusual public plea by Gov. Pete Wilson of California last month to stem the tide of illegal immigration has stirred debate both within the state and nationally.

In an open letter to President Clinton published in major newspapers, Mr. Wilson blamed illegal immigration--and the federal government's failure to curb it--for many of the problems faced by his cash-strapped state.

Asserting "we can no longer allow compassion to overrule reason,'' Mr. Wilson called for the federal government to take drastic measures to deter illegal aliens from entering.

The Governor called for a constitutional amendment to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal aliens.

Two-thirds of all babies born in Los Angeles County public hospitals are the children of illegal immigrants, Mr. Wilson noted.

Their parents broke the law in getting there, he contended, but "rather than penalizing it, we reward their illegal act; we pay for delivery and confer U.S. citizenship upon the baby.''

The state spends $636 million each year on K-12 education for the children of illegal aliens, he estimated, and $236 million for welfare.

Federal mandates making illegal immigrants eligible for health, education, and other benefits draw aliens into the country like "a giant magnet,'' he said.

"Massive illegal immigration will continue as long as the federal government continues to reward it,'' Governor Wilson's letter asserted.

The Republican Governor's declaration reflects growing frustration in the Golden State over the cost of illegal immigration, with prominent Democratic politicians also calling for stepped-up border-control efforts.

Nevertheless, the drastic nature of Mr. Wilson's proposals and the high-profile manner in which he chose to air them led some critics to assert that the Governor may be taking on illegal immigration to bolster his chances of re-election next year.

"Governor Wilson is just trying to score some political points,'' said Charles H. Wheeler, the directing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles.

"He's got very low ratings,'' Mr. Wheeler observed, "and he sees this as something he can use for his own political purposes.''

Far from deterring illegal aliens from entering the state, the Governor's proposal to cut illegal immigrants off from education and other services simply would create "a permanent subclass'' of people who can't get the training they need to hold jobs, Mr. Wheeler predicted.

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