Thursday, May 25, 2006

Same in California

Five hours flight time from Washington turned into six as we had to swing far to the South over Texas in order to avoid thunderstorms over the central mid-West.

But after hours of flying over the Western deserts the plane touched down by San Fransisco Bay.

The issue here - even more than in Washington - seems to be immigration.

Tomorrow President Vincente Fox arrives in California in order to, among other things, address the state legislature in Sacramento.

And Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - a legal immigrant who is facing his own election later this year - must strike a balance between the very different views on this issue found in this state by the Pacific.

The issue is truly big. In Wall Street Journal today, New York mayor Bloomberg goes so far as to describe it as the issue that will define American politics of this decade:

"In every decade there is a critical domestic issue that shapes our political life for decades to come. In the 1960s, it was civil rights; in the 1970s, the Watergate crisis; in the 1980s, crime and drugs; and in the 1990s, welfare dependency. Today, it is immigration."

That might be to go too far - but it certainly shows the magnitude of the issue in the US political debate at the moment.

And in The San Fransisco Chronicle the issue is clearly the dominent one.

Meanwhile back in Washington, the Senate will try to get its act together on the issue before Congress takes a its Memorial day recess from Friday.

Although it is likely that the Senate will follow President Bush's rather sensible line, emotions are running high. A report by the conservative think-thank Heritage Foundation on Monday, saying that over 100 million immigrants would be let in over coming years under the proposed bill, lead to immediate changes.

But Heritage isn't satisfied, and continues with its warnings:

"As a result of this change, our estimate of the number of legal immigrants who would enter the country or would gain legal status under S. 2611 falls from 103 million to around 66 million over the next 20 years."

Business is firmly on the side of a more liberal policy, with the US Chamber of Commerce leading the charge on their side.

But on Thursday much attention will be on Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vincente Fox.

The Austrian and the Mexican battling for the soul of California.