California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking to improve his image with Hispanics at home, arrived in Mexico on Friday and met with Baja California Gov. Eugenio Elorduy about security issues, immigration and a controversial border canal. Schwarzenegger has come under fire from many of his state's 12 million Hispanics for opposing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and proposing health and welfare cuts that would have hit Hispanics hard. He angered both Californians and the Mexican government when he praised a citizen border patrol and said California's border with Mexico should be closed - something he quickly apologized for. In Mexico, Schwarzenegger has developed a reputation as being anti-immigrant.
Schwarzenegger's trip to Mexico marks the start of a US$1 million (Ђ823,045) campaign aimed directly at Hispanic voters in California using Spanish- language television ads to improve his image among Hispanics. Friday's visit to Mexico will be his second as governor. During his first visit, in July, he made no public comments and only attended a dinner of border governors from both the United States and Mexico.
Schwarzenegger was scheduled to begin his visit with a private meeting with Elorduy. Afterward, both governors were expected to talk with graduate students in a binational education program. Also on the agenda is a proposal to line the All-American Canal with concrete. The 80-mile (130-kilometer) canal directs water from the Colorado River to farms in California's Imperial Valley. Construction is scheduled to begin next year and be finished in 2008.
However, Mexican President Vicente Fox - and Elorduy - have opposed the project, arguing that farmers and wildlife south of the border depend on the canal seepage flowing into an underground aquifer that is pumped to irrigate crops in Baja California's Mexicali Valley.
Mexicali's Economic Development Council said they will ask Elorduy and Schwarzenegger to conduct a study on how lining the canal could impact the surrounding economy and immigration patterns, AP reports.