Schwarzenegger's latest action heroes

The California governor salutes the April deployment of border vigilantes in Arizona.

Published April 29, 2005 8:55PM (EDT)

Two days before members of the so-called Minuteman Project are scheduled to stand down from their self-appointed security posts along the Arizona border, their efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigrants got an unexpected shout-out from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In an interview on Los Angeles radio station KFI, Schwarzenegger said of the armed volunteers, "They've done a terrific job." According to the Governator, who drew criticism last week when he suggested it was time for the U.S. to "close the borders," the federal government isn't taking border security seriously enough. "Our federal government is not doing their job," Schwarzenegger said. "It's a shame that the private citizen has to go in there and start patrolling our borders."

Schwarzenegger pegged his concerns to the time he watched Fox News footage showing "hundreds and hundreds of illegal immigrants" coming across the border. "I mean, what's that?" he asked.

But according to Minuteman spokesperson Gary Deacon, who called Schwarzenegger "the most responsible politician in the West," Arnie knows a lot more about immigration than just what he sees on Fox News. As a legal immigrant, Deacon said, Schwarzenegger "understands immigration policy better than most citizens."

California Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-Southgate, had a different take, suggesting that Schwarzenegger may be confusing his role as governor with his many roles on the silver screen. "This isn't an action movie," De La Torre said. "It isn't cool that there are people out in the desert with guns."

Update: Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California says that Schwarzenegger isn't the only executive in need of vigilance on the issue.

"It is a singular failure that the Bush administration has refused to put adequate patrols along the borders. I am surprised that the Governor, rather than call the President of his party and urge additional border patrol agents, has praised efforts by untrained volunteers to patrol the borders," Feinstein said in a statement Friday. "The best course, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission and authorized by Congress, would be to add an additional 2,000 border patrol agents. Unfortunately, President Bush refuses to provide the funds for this urgent priority."

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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