Schwarzenegger made the remark while speaking to newspaper editors and publishers Tuesday. He said he intended to say the border should be secured.
“Yesterday was a total screw-up in the words I used,” the Republican said at a news conference Wednesday. “Because instead of closing, I meant securing. I think maybe my English, I need to go back to school and study a little bit.”
An immigrant himself, the Austrian-born governor’s contrition seemed to quell the issue at the Capitol, where a key Latino lawmaker accepted the apology a day after criticizing the remark.
“I don’t think the governor identifies himself with that kind of rhetoric,” said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, a Democrat. “I don’t know why he said it, but I’m very pleased he has totally removed himself from those folks who espouse that kind of hatred.”
In his remarks Tuesday, Schwarzenegger told journalists: “Close the borders in California and all across México and in the United States because I think it is just unfair to have all those people coming across, have the borders open the way it is, and have this kind of lax situation.”
Although a big bloc of Latino voters supported Schwarzenegger in the 2003 recall election, the governor’s relationship with California ’s largest minority group has been uneasy since he took office. Latino leaders have criticized Schwarzenegger’s unsuccessful efforts to cut public health and social services that would have hurt low-income families.
Most notably, however, the governor forced the Legislature to repeal a bill that granted driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Although Schwarzenegger since said several times he would accept some form of the legislation if security issues could be resolved, no compromise has been reached.
His remark about the border was taken as a slight by some Latinos, putting the Terminator in his lowest poll position since elected.
“That’s not what we expected given the fact that the governor himself is an immigrant,” said Francisco Estrada, a spokesman for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.