Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called President Bush "very courageous" Tuesday for pressing ahead with a contentious immigration reform plan, supporting a fellow Republican on an issue that has split the party.
Schwarzenegger — an Austrian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen — rebuked those he described as partisan critics trying to torpedo the bipartisan immigration deal struck by the Senate. It would allow 12 million illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. while they took steps to gain citizenship.
"I think it's inexcusable that we have had this system, and that people are fighting from the far right and the far left over this issue, rather than coming together in the center and really coming up with a compromise that works," the governor told several hundred members of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
"I have to say President Bush is very courageous to push this immigration bill," he said. "I am very pleased that Congress is working very hard and negotiating so they can solve this issue once and for all."
Schwarzenegger's views on immigration have largely aligned with Bush's for some time. But the support he expressed Tuesday, in response to an audience member's question, came at a sensitive time for the president.
Bush has been pilloried by conservatives who oppose what they see as the immigration proposal's amnesty for illegal immigrants.