May 4, 2007

Presidential Hopeful Bill Richardson Courts Ethnic Media

By Daffodil Altan
New America Media

LOS ANGELES – Gov. Bill Richardson, a candidate for the 2008 presidential elections, met with Los Angeles area ethnic media this week for a question and answer roundtable about his bid for president, the value of California’s diverse population in the 2008 elections, and North Korea, among other subjects.

“For all the Latinos here, I want you to know I’m Latino,” Richardson said in crisp Spanish, “I can’t convince people with this last name,” he said, laughing.

Flanked by news cameras, photographers and reporters from Vietnamese, Latino, Chinese, Korean, Iranian and other ethnic publications, the New Mexico governor said California mattered more politically now mostly because California will hold early primary elections next year, on Feb. 5, 2008.

When asked about his plans for immigration reform, Richardson said he is fond of “the old Kennedy-McCain bill,” which he said focused on “earned legalization and not amnesty.”

He said if he were president, he would do several things: map out a legalization plan for all undocumented immigrants, increase border security, with enhanced border patrol and technology, and increase legal immigration by increasing HB-1 visas and dealing immediately with the large visa backlog. When asked about a guest worker program, the governor said, “I would talk more about earned legalization,” which would involve learning English, passing a background check and paying a fine, he said. “Within earned legalization, I don’t have a problem with a guest worker program,” he said.

When it came to the subject of the war in Iraq, Richardson gave an idyllic scenario for what he would do, if elected, during his first days in office. “Let’s say I’m president tomorrow,” he began. On the first day, “I would get out of Iraq by the end of this calendar year,” he said. He said he would use the leverage of the withdrawal to bring together disparate, warring factions together in an attempt to build a coalition government.

“People say, ‘Governor, your plan would end in civil war,’” he said. “Well there’s already a civil war!” After reuniting various groups in Iraq, Richardson said he would hold an international security conference and invite countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. With this international group he would shift attention to energy independence and global climate change. “I believe there has to be a commitment to clean this planet,” he said. His plan, he said, would involve shrinking the U.S.’s 65% dependence on foreign energy sources down to 10%. “I believe that we can…shift to a new economy,” he said.

Richardson also added that during his first days in office, he would draft an aggressive plan for education reform. “I would have universal preschool,” he said, as well as a curriculum that emphasized the learning of foreign languages. He said he’d also find a way to “revitalize teachers and pay them better.”

When asked about gun control by a member of the Asian press Richardson said that he was not an advocate of gun control. “I don’t believe that solves the problem,” he said. “Virginia has shown that we need to plug the hole on mental illness,” he said. Richardson has been a steady supporter of the National Rifle Association during his tenure as governor of New Mexico. “A sizeable majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, they’re hunters. It’s a way of life.”

Richardson also emphasized the diversity of the state as a representative of the country. “The diversity of this country has not been represented in the government,” he said. If elected he said he would leverage the knowledge and biculturalism of U.S. ethnic groups by appointing “ethnic Americans as American cultural ambassadors.”

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