This interview was shot on location in Manchester, during the primary in New Hampshire.
PAUL JAY: I’m here with the mayor of Los Angeles, Mayor Vallaraigosa. You’re supporting Hillary Clinton. Why did you feel it necessary even to support anyone? Are you really happy with this field? And why did you come out?
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Well, people have asked me why the second-largest city in America would leave sunny California for Iowa and New Hampshire in the dead of winter, and I said it’s simple: This is the most important election of my lifetime. We’re at war. We’re in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we want to get our troops out as quickly and as safely as possible. Fifty million people uninsured today. We’re losing the strength of the middle class. We depend on foreign oil in a way that, frankly, is unacceptable in a time of global warming.
JAY: But why Senator Clinton?
VILLARAIGOSA: Hillary Clinton? Because I think she’s got the strength, the experience, and the leadership to hit the ground running, to do the important things we need to do to move America in a new direction.
JAY: Are you not concerned by some of the positions she’s taken, for example, most recently, the vote for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment on Iran? Senator Kyl and Lieberman are co-chairs of the Committee on the Present Danger. It’s a group of very hard-right neoconservatives that drafted that bill. What makes you think she’s really a peace candidate, based on her record?
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, first of all, I think all of the Democratic candidates, all of the candidates on the Democratic side of the aisle have made it absolutely clear they want to get us out of this war, and they want to get us out as quickly and safely as possible. But Hillary Clinton’s committed within the first sixty days to put together the national security team, state department officials, Pentagon officials, in an effort to begin to move us out of Iraq within the first sixty days. I look at Hillary, and the one thing that you know about her is this is a woman who understands that we’ve lost our prestige and respect around the world, that we need to collaborate with our international partners around the world, that we need to engage in diplomacy around the world. And I believe her when she says she’s going to move quickly to get us out of this war.
JAY: The immigration question on the Republican side seems to be a contest of who can take a stronger position on immigration. What do you think is the solution to immigration? What’s a rational approach?
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, I’m glad you said that. You know, my grandpa came here a hundred years ago. He came here with a dream. People have asked me did he come here legally or not, and I honestly don’t know the answer. The important point about that was that, you know, he came here to work, he came here for a better life, had two beautiful children who had nine kids, all of whom have contributed to this nation. The vast majority of people who come to this country in this century, and the century before that, and the century before that have been people who come for a better life. They come here ’cause this is a beacon pole—.
JAY: But what’s a rational solution to this current situation?
VILLARAIGOSA: One, remembering that tradition, understanding that whatever we do, we have to keep consistent with those values. But very importantly, and Senator Clinton has articulated a position that says, we have every right to secure our borders, to enforce our immigration laws. We should collaborate with our neighbors to be able to address this issue of the border.
JAY: But do you think there should be an amnesty for people who live here?
VILLARAIGOSA: There should be an effort to provide a pathway for citizenship. That’s not amnesty. They have to work. They have to pay their taxes. They can’t have broken the law. They have to learn the language. They have to get at the end of the line, but they should also have some pathway for citizenship. If you look at a Pew study, some 75 percent of Americans support that. You know, on the Republican end, they call that amnesty. That’s not an amnesty. What that is is an opportunity to give people a pathway for citizenship.
JAY: Certainly some of the onus for this current situation has to be on the employers and the governments who actually wanted people to come here and work cheaply. I actually personally don’t understand anything wrong with amnesty. If people are encouraged to come, induced to come, frankly—. I remember in 1991 I stood on the Tijuana border with close to 500 people standing on either side about to cross over. There was no one on the other side saying don’t come, because it was harvest season.
VILLARAIGOSA: Holding employers accountable is another important point in this strategy. You have to. You shouldn’t just hold the people accountable who are working; you should hold the people accountable who are hiring them knowing that they are doing so illegally. Again, I think the threshold has to be compassion, has to be smart, not just talking to—. You know, this administration, candidates on the Republican aisle, who talk so tough about immigration, the fact of the matter is they’ve not funded some 2,000 border patrol agents. The fact of the matter is you’ve seen illegal immigration increase under this administration. If you want to address it, let’s address it compassionately. Let’s deal strongly with the issue, but in a way that understands that these people come here to work. They provide great wealth to the nation. And we should create some pathway for citizenship while at the same time enforcing our laws and the rule of law.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.