‘THOSE comments are disturbing to many of us,” said Arnoldo Torres, who worked in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign last year. Torres was referring to the governor’s private remarks on immigration and Mexicans, remarks that were recently made public. The comments, part of a recording that included Schwarzenegger and his staff discussing issues, were recorded and temporarily stored in the governor’s Web site before eventually making their way to the press. Some of Schwarzenegger’s comments are obviously offensive, not just to Latinos but also to every Californian. In one instance, the governor says that Mexicans make no effort to assimilate. When he was in a shopping mall in Lynwood, he says he felt he was in Mexico since everyone spoke Spanish. Mexicans re-create “Mexico in California,” he says. The tapes include comments that reiterate some of Schwarzenegger’s past public statements on immigration. For instance, he once came out in support of the Minuteman Project, a group that President George W. Bush called vigilantes. Schwarzenegger also once called for the border with Mexico to be “closed.” He later said he meant “secured,” not closed, blaming his faulty English. But until recently Schwarzenegger has been able to switch and soften his positions on immigration. He came out against the U.S. government’s plan to build a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border, saying that people could find a way to get in. He has also come out in favor of a guest-worker program, saying he supports the concept of earned legalization. In more recent public statements, Schwarzenegger seems to reflect a certain humanity and understanding of the complex issue. He has said that since some undocumented workers have kids who are American citizens, it would be impossible to send them back because you can’t “split” those families. Schwarzenegger’s proposal of health care for all Californians makes no distinction between legal and illegal residents. In fact, he was quoted as saying that “children are children” and deserve medical care regardless of the parents’ legal status. The same would, in all likelihood, apply to parents. Only healthy parents can take care of their kids. Schwarzenegger’s positions on immigration are complex and may reflect the challenges inherent in the issue. All Californians, and all Americans, struggle with the matter because, like Schwarzenegger, everyone is an immigrant. Schwarzenegger is probably trying to come to grips with a divisive issue. Schwarzenegger’s views on immigration are not easy to pinpoint because, like a very good politician, he changes and adapts. Although he has made some statements that were music to the right wing of the GOP, he has also realized that he can get quite a bit of mileage by being sensitive to immigrants and viewing them as human beings instead of criminals. The Latino vote represents 14 percent of the total California electorate. In the last election for governor, Schwarzenegger received 40 percent of the Latino vote, which for a Republican is great. His strategy indicates that politicians who want to win elections need to continue to deal with the needs and concerns of this group. Domenico Maceri teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. Contact him through his Web site, languageblogger.blogspot.com. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!