Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor running to be California’s next governor, said Thursday that if he was leading the nation’s largest state while President Trump was in the White House, he would not be quick “to react to every ignorant tweet coming out of Washington.”
The topic was Trump’s statements and actions this week on sending back undocumented immigrants to their home countries, building the wall across the southern border that he promised in the campaign, and ending the flow of refugees into the nation. President Trump frequently issues statements via his Twitter account.
“The next governor needs to say there is a California way, and it is not a California exit,” Villaraigosa said in a meeting with reporters at The Bee.
Villaraigosa said he would instead focus his energies on “making the economy work for us.” Particularly for the central San Joaquin Valley, “jobs and the economy are No. 1,” the Democrat said.
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Out of politics for three years, Villaraigosa announced his candidacy in November. He joins a crowded field of Democrats – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former San Francisco mayor; state Treasurer John Chiang; and former state schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin. Also said to be considering a run are former state controller Steve Westly and Tom Steyer, a San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire. They hope to replace Gov. Jerry Brown, whose tenure ends in 2018.
After announcing his campaign, Villaraigosa set out on a 51-day “listening tour” that brought him to the Valley 26 times. “I’ve learned how you say Los Baños as ‘Los Ba-nos,’” he said with a chuckle.
Asked about high-speed rail, Villaraigosa said he supports it as a boost for jobs and the economy. To critics of the proposal to run high-speed trains from Southern California to San Francisco via the Valley, Villaraigosa said to focus just on costs of the project is to miss the opportunities it would create. He characterized high-speed rail as a logical evolution of transportation technology to move California into the 21st century. The train, he pointed out, could link the central San Joaquin Valley to Silicon Valley.
On what to do about undocumented immigrants, Villaraigosa said the nation has a right to secure borders. But he said many undocumented people living in America today have been here for decades, paying taxes and sending children to schools. The role of government is to figure out “a pathway to citizenship,” he said.
Villaraigosa also questioned the feasibility of mass deportations, saying there are too many immigrants who would have to be returned to their home nations and that it would prove too expensive to round them up.
“No one is suggesting we don’t have a right to secure borders,” he said. “But let’s secure the border while giving people a pathway to the American dream.”
The former speaker of the Assembly who went on to lead Los Angeles, Villaraigosa noted he worked with two Republican governors – Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I want to be the governor for all the people,” said Villaraigosa.