California Gov. Pete Wilson took his hard-edged campaign against illegal immigration to the nation's capital Friday and promised "I will do all that I can" to help other states end illegal immigration.
Wilson, making his first visit to Washington since his come-from-behind re-election victory Nov. 8, deflected questions about whether he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1996.Instead, he used his speech and news conference at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, to tout Proposition 187, the ballot initiative that California voters approved by a 59-41 percent margin on Nov. 8. Prop 187 would cut off state services such as education and non-emergency health care to illegal immigrants.
Wilson responded to criticism of Prop 187 by Mexican government officials by telling the Mexican government to "butt out of the internal affairs of the United States and the state of California."
Referring to Andres Rozental, deputy Mexican foreign minister, who made several trips to California to speak against Prop 187 in the weeks leading up to the election, Wilson accused the Mexican government "of outrageous overreaching" and of "outrageous interference" in U.S. politics.
He said comments by Mexican officials that Prop 187 is racist and immigrant bashing are "insulting to the people of California who voted for it who are neither racists nor immigrant bashers."
After California voters approved Prop 187, immigration rights activists won court orders delaying its implementation. The measure is expected to remain in suspension until the U.S. Supreme Court decides its constitutionality.
Wilson's 15-point re-election victory over Democrat Kathleen Brown catapulted him to the first string of national Republican spokesmen. His role as the principal backer of Prop 187 raised the question of what his leadership role would be in efforts to limit illegal immigration.
"I will do all that I can to advance the cause of ending illegal immigration," he replied.
One way of doing that is working with other states that want their own version of Prop 187, he said. He also said he has talked with House Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader-to-be Bob Dole to urge that the federal government either reimburse states for providing services to illegal immigrants or allow the states to refuse to provide such services.
At one point, Wilson spoke warmly of illegal immigrants, saying: "It's impossible, I think, not to sympathize with illegal immigrants or even to admire their gumption."