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Schwarzenegger takes aim at Arizona immigration law on Leno show

April 29, 2010 |  9:44 pm

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday night declared the new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants “a mess” and something he “would never do.” 

The governor made his remarks while in the guest chair of the “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” a venue he has returned to often since using the show to declare his plans to run for governor in 2003. During Thursday’s interview, the governor also remarked on legalizing marijuana, his inability to run for president as a foreign-born citizen and the smoking tent outside his office. 

“That is a mess,” he said of the new Arizona law that directs law enforcement to question anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. “I would never do that in California. No way.” Schwarzenegger said the federal government, which for years has failed to reform immigration laws, is to blame.

“It's irresponsible,” he said of the failure of Congress and the White House to pass new immigration laws. “We have all this stuff. We have the daily crossings. We have the crime. We have the guns that are being transported down to Mexico. We have cocaine and other drugs brought up here from Mexico, and we have human trafficking. I mean, it's a huge, huge mess, and the federal government does not get their act together and have immigration reform so that we know who is in this country, how many people are in this country. Do the background checks, let people come in legally and work here because we need the workers. … What do they do? They look the other way and try ‑‑ kind of like in denial, living in denial like it doesn't happen.” 

Asked about his position on the upcoming ballot measure that would legalize marijuana use in California, Schwarzenegger said he supports existing law, but then joked that if voters approve legalization, the issue will go to the courts, and, “definitely the highest courts will then approve it.” Leno responded: “Right, if they’re really high.”

The governor also talked about the famous “smoking tent” in the courtyard outside his office, where he invites lawmakers to talk business over a cigar. He expressed pride in the political incorrectness of smoking in the middle of the Capitol. “ I don't try to pull wool over people's eyes,” he said. “I mean, this is me. I smoke stogies. I wear cowboy boots. I do this and that. I drive those kind of cars, and so be it. And the people should know who I am rather than trying to drive in with a Prius into the Capitol to show because they know that I am energy‑efficient or something.”

Schwarzenegger, who has been lauded in the national media as the "green governor," did point out “I do it at home with the solar panels and all… But just to show that, ‘Look how good I am,’ that is not my style."

The governor also used the Leno appearance to once again note what a shame it is that, as a foreign born citizen, he can’t run for president. Asked by Leno if he would run if the law allowed it, the governor said, “without any doubt.”
-- Evan Halper in Sacramento

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