Los Angeles mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa the city’s first Latino mayor since 1872 said Wednesday that Mexico will play an important role in shaping his policies.
In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, Villaraigosa spoke about the Real ID act and its effect on migrants and recent proposals which would allow local police to detain undocumented workers for deportation.
Los Angeles is second only to Mexico City in Mexican population, and Villaraigosa stressed that as mayor he would look to improve relations with Mexico.
“We are starting a new era. Instead of closing the borders, as stated by (California Governor Arnold) Schwarzenegger, we should look at our border as an opportunity,” said Villaraigosa. “This is a time of great importance, not just for us to rediscover our roots, but looking to create a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Villaraigosa is the son of Mexican immigrants and grew up in largely Hispanic East Los Angeles. He said he would not support policies that persecute the city’s large migrant population.
“I support Special Order 40 (prohibiting police from making migration-related arrests),” he said. “We need our police officers to fight gangs and organized crime. That will keep them more than busy.”
He lamented the Real ID act, recently passed by the U.S. Congress, that if signed by President George W. Bush would prevent undocumented migrants from getting driver’s licenses.
“Politicians in the United States need to understand that immigrants come here for the same reason that immigrants have always come: To work,” he said. “Instead of punishing and demonizing them, we should try to integrate them.”
He added that while his position does not allow him to make policies on immigration, he will speak out in favor of “humane, realistic and effective” migration reform.
Villaraigosa won the Los Angeles mayor’s race on Tuesday, May 17.