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Whitman talks about Pete Wilson, immigration and Proposition 187

May 19, 2010 | 11:00 am

When Steve Poizner began talking about illegal immigration in the Republican gubernatorial race, Meg Whitman turned to former Gov. Pete Wilson to help secure her conservative bona fides on the issue. Wilson recorded a radio spot and appeared in a mailer saying Whitman was "tough as nails" on the issue and would work to secure the borders.

But it turns out, Whitman doesn't agree with the former governor on the issue itself. During his run for governor in 1994, Wilson embraced Proposition 187, the initiative that sought to eliminate access to healthcare and public schools for anyone in the country illegally.

Whitman discussed the issue after a campaign stop in Roseville, Calif., on Monday.

You're heading to Fresno later today. How does the issue of illegal immigration play with farmers you talk to in the Central Valley.

They support the main four points of my platform -- against amnesty, securing the border, holding employers accountable and against sanctuary cities. What the farmers will tell you is they need a stable workforce to pick the crops in the Central Valley. Its a $32-billion business, and they want a stable workforce, a guest-worker program that works for them, that enables people to be there legally to pick the crops but allows them to go home, not unlike the Bracero Program.

Is that something that you would support?

Yeah, I don't know the exact solution, but it's something we've got to look at to have that stable workforce here to pick the crops, no question about it. 

Why did you decide to bring Pete Wilson out in the radio ad last week?

Immigration came up as an issue in this campaign. Steve Poizner was saying that I was not tough on immigration. The truth is I'm 100% against amnesty; I want to hold employers accountable. ... I think I have the right approach for California, and frankly he was just straight out not telling the truth, which is that I was 100% against amnesty. So Pete Wilson is the chairman of my campaign, and I thought he could speak articulately on the issue.

Did you or do you support Proposition 187?

I do not. I have said it is not the right thing to withhold a public-school education or healthcare from the children -- that it is not all right to hold children accountable for the sins of the parents. And so I think we need to keep K-12 education for the children.

Do you think this discussion in the primary could hurt the eventual Republican nominee in November?

What's really important to me is consistency. When I started this race, I said I was going to take a position on the issues, and people will either like the sum total of my point of view, they'll like my business background (or not).  So, I think people will appreciate consistency and leadership.

-- Anthony York