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Mayor Filner Answers Our Questions, And Yours

Evening Edition

City of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner answers questions from KPBS and its listeners.

Aired 2/6/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


City of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner


Aired 2/7/13 on KPBS News.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner says Plaza de Panama can still be remodeled despite a court ruling this week. Amita Sharma spoke with Filner on KPBS Evening Edition about that ruling and other issues facing the city.

The last time San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was interviewed on KPBS, we asked him if he'd come back often as a guest. He offered to come on once a month to answer our questions as well as questions from our listeners.

On Wednesday he made good on the first leg of that promise, chatting with callers about everything from pension benefits to medical marijuana.

Filner began by addressing a judge’s recent decision to halt the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park. Filner was an opponent of the plan, but said "happy is not the word" for how he feels about the judge's decision.

He said there are many options for restructuring the park, and proposed one alternative.

"You put in parking on the outside, you park outside of the park, and there may be a space for a parking garage outside the park, and you have people coming on a tram system into the park, the tram system being part of the whole park experience," he said. "We can do that. I could put up six traffic cones tomorrow and stop the cars from coming in. So this is not a $40 million operation."

Filner said he hopes the original project’s sponsor, Irwin Jacobs, will be involved in future plans for the park. But Jacobs told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday he has not seen any alternative plans that meet his requirements for support: removing cars from Plaza de Panama but still serving the needs of museums and other institutions inside Balboa Park.

"At this point, it's over," he said.

The City Attorney has said the City Council could make an amendment to satisfy the judge’s objection to the original Plaza de Panama plan. Filner would not say if he would veto that action, but he said he wishes the City Attorney would act as the attorney, not the policy maker, for the city.

Another caller asked Filner where he planned to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open. Last month, Filner re-opened the door to the possibility of legal medical marijuana collectives in San Diego.

On Midday, Filner said he would bring a plan for medical marijuana zoning to the City Council soon.

"We’re going to try to balance compassionate use of medical marijuana with the concerns that neighborhoods have and come out with an approach that will do both, and I’ll have that ready in about three weeks," he said.

When a caller asked about pay raises for city employees, Filner said it was not right to blame city employees for the city's financial troubles.

"The day of the vilification of our public employees is over," he said.

He added he'll start negotiations with city workers next week, beginning with police officers.

Filner also said he'll open an office in Tijuana starting next week.

On KPBS Evening Edition, he responded to news that Senator Barbara Boxer has called on federal regulators to investigate San Onofre. Boxer said there is new information that Southern California Edison was aware of problems with San Onofre's generators before the company installed them.

Filner said the Nuclear Regulator Commission must hold a public hearing requiring proof from Edison the plant is safe to restart.

“Look, we don’t want to be a Three Mile Island," he said. "We don’t want to be a Chernobyl. We don’t want to have a situation as they did in Japan. The safety of nuclear plants is very shaky.”

The NRC says it won’t allow the plant to restart until it's saftisfied the plant can operate without undue risk to public health and safety.

Others with questions about Filner's plans for the city can email him at

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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Avatar for user 'sara_k'

sara_k | February 6, 2013 at 11:15 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Question for Mayor Filner: As you meet with residents, community groups, and city staff, are you tracking these meetings?

Some groups with shared interests and goals may not be aware of others which are similar. With your high profile and community-focused leadership, it seems there could be a great opportunity to build consensus and efforts between existing engaged citizens. Do you envision creating a mechanism to do this?

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Avatar for user 'laplayaheritage'

laplayaheritage | February 6, 2013 at 11:40 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Why is Civic San Diego the contact for Meet and Confer Negotiations with the Department of Finance (DOF) on the @ $700 million in outstanding downtown San Diego CCDC claims instead of Mayor Filner and Ms. Frye?

$700 million is too important to leave in the hands of the former CCDC.

The Department of Finance (DOF) is doing a great job forcing Civic San Diego administration to follow State law that winds down the Redevelopment Agencies (RDA).

The DOF said "NO" to Civic San Diego’s on the Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule (ROPS-III) claim for the outstanding debt for Petco Park ($226 million), the existing Phase II of the Convention Center ($224 million), outstanding Federal HUD debt ($144 million plus Interest), and other miscellanous City Loans due to failure to enact Repayment Agreements and recognized legal financial debts prior to 2011. The debts were not memorized in writing due to CCDC (now Civic San Diego) prior made-up legal arguments. Solutions on our Debt Policy were dismissed based upon fraud and purposeful misinformation by CCDC and the downtown crowd. See Page 4.

In 2007, then City Councilwoman Donna Frye presented her solution to our Debt Policy to force CCDC and the Redevelopment Agency to admit their outstanding debt.

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Avatar for user 'GandT'

GandT | February 6, 2013 at 11:46 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Question for Mayor Filner:

In service to your new policies of transparency and better access to the Mayor's office for all San Diego residents; would you discuss your various staff members in terms of your vision for their various duties and responsibilities? Perhaps a little about them each, who is responsible for what departments, who should a resident call for what kind of service or problem resolution, etc. What changes have you made in how the Mayor's office runs and what changes are ongoing? And where and when will you be available for more "meet the Mayor' events. (And Midday Edition.. would you post a link to some of this info on your website?) Thanks.

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Avatar for user 'radiofree'

radiofree | February 6, 2013 at 12:16 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Why did you recently speak out against the proposed One Paseo mega-development in Carmel Valley?

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Avatar for user 'Really123'

Really123 | February 6, 2013 at 12:28 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Mayor Fillner plan is the biggest ENABLER for homelessness I've heard about in years!!! There are thousands of people on the streets that are not San Diegans that have migrated here like tumbleweed. Why would we ever want to take care of them?

I'm from Chicago, we tried warehousing people, it ended up as Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylor Homes. Two places that even ambulances would not answer calls to for fear being shot.

So in this case we are going to warehouse drug addicts and mental patients by the hundreds in buildings. These people don't work, they spill out onto the sidewalks all day long and beg for money.

What a shame. Downtown is OVER if Filner gets his way.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 6, 2013 at 12:46 p.m. ― 4 years ago

I don't have a question, I just want to say removing the red light cameras was the right move.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 6, 2013 at 2:22 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Mayor Filner, will you and your staff in the new Tijuana Mayoral Office be working to reduce illegal immigration by coordinating with federal agencies like ICE?

Or is the plan to move San Diego more towards being a sanctuary city like San Francisco?

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | February 6, 2013 at 2:31 p.m. ― 4 years ago

@Really123: I have to correct a few of your mistakes.

1. You spelled "Filner" wrong.
2. There are not "thousands" of non-San Diegan homeless on our streets, and even if there were, well, here they are now. What are we going to do, send them back?
3. We provide shelter, food, and opportunities to regain independence because it's the right thing to do, and believe it or not, we can afford it.
4. Not all homeless are drug addicts and not all homeless are mental patients. Some of them might even deserve your respect whether you know it or not.
5. Some homeless do work, and most homeless would give anything for the opportunity to work.
6. The purpose of a sidewalk is for people to "spill out" onto it.
7. Begging for money is not a crime.

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Avatar for user 'Really123'

Really123 | February 6, 2013 at 2:56 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Ilk: We disagree.
1. Filner, right oops, sorry.
2. Okay almost thousands, yes send them back.
3. Sure we can afford it, lets do it in your neighborhood.
4. I've been around the DT streets for 20 years. I've been around homeless for 20 years as I park my car. I've talked to them, I've tried to help them. They laughed at me (in a joking way, not evil) as I went into work telling me they'd be drunk by lunchtime. I don't respect them, at all.
5. I'm not worried about those people. What homeless people have you talked to?
6. Is it the purpose of a sidewalk to sprawl across it with your pitbull and stare angrily out at passers by while your gansta boyfriend shaked down people for money? (I walked past this on C Street not a month ago.)
7. It should be, so should being ugly.

Look I know I'm not going to win any friends with this one, and I understand most people will disagree with me. I actually respect your point of view, it's just not for me. I've been involved with this issue in one form or another for a long time now, I've even been on panels with Father Joe (We didn't agree either). This problem has gone from bad to worse. I don't know here you live, if your in the burbs it's easy for you to feel this way, no one takes a dump on your garage door, or shakes you down at the local gas station, or congragates in your alley to sleep and sell drugs. It used to not be this way. I deserve, my neighbors deserve, to not have drug addict derelicts present as we walk to the corner to buy milk. We deserve to not have crazy half dressed people screaming obscenities at us as they shuffle by. (That's humane? Letting them live on the street?) Years ago a neighbor of mine was stabbed by a homeless man for confronting him as he urinated on his garage door.

I don't know what the answer is, but this isn't working, and neither will warehousing these people downtown where so much of it is already. Okay, here is an idea, warehouse them on a farm, a commune, kibbutz, what have you, just spread them out please.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | February 6, 2013 at 3:26 p.m. ― 4 years ago

2. Send them back? Cute idea. You'll be willing to pay for this, I suppose.
3. I live in 92101. It is my neighborhood.
4, 5. OK, so you don't respect homeless drunks. But not all homeless are drunks. My point stands - there are some you may very well respect, if you were to meet them. Drunks don't invalidate their need for respect.
6. Of course you can sit on the sidewalk. You can sit on the sidewalk with any variety of dog breed you like. You can even stare at anyone using any facial expression you like. This is America! Shaking people down might not be legal, but it's hard to tell how accurately you're characterizing his behavior since I doubt you could accurately determine whether or not he was a gang member, either.
7. Cool opinion, bro.

I just don't think it's fair to call Filner an "enabler." He's not enabling crime, he's enabling safety. Homeless people are still responsible for their actions, but the rehabilitative programs and shelter provided by organizations like the SD Rescue Mission, United Way, and SD Downtown Partnership are all wonderful things. No one is being "warehoused" as you say, only their belongings are the proposed Check-In Center. Which is a great idea. I applaud Filner for pursuing it.

The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members. Don't forget that.

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Avatar for user 'sallydunn7'

sallydunn7 | February 6, 2013 at 3:38 p.m. ― 4 years ago

IIK, I am with you all the way. I work with the homeless and they are for the most part not criminals as really123 implies. The city saves money by housing them so they are not in the street using emergency services and not off their meds, like happens when they sleep in the streets and loose them. Mental illness is not a matter of being lazy it is a matter of being ill and unable to think or function well without medication. I visit the clients at these shelters and I think they are probably more honorable than Really123.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | February 6, 2013 at 3:44 p.m. ― 4 years ago

sally, I have tremendous respect and appreciation for yourself and people like you. Keep up the good work!

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Avatar for user 'laplayaheritage'

laplayaheritage | February 6, 2013 at 7:15 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Please see our above linked Proposal to Make Ending Poverty and Homelessness in San Diego a Priority. Through Use of former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Assets and Future Tax Increment (TI) to fund the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care (SDRCC) a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Between the Local Property Taxing Entities.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | February 6, 2013 at 11:24 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Great Job Bob! Leading by example. Taking questions fromt the public, making periodic meetings with citizens, collecting solutions, listening, responding. This is the kind of democratic representation San Diego has needed for decades. No Repub ever goes out in public without security and a car running nearby.

Homeless need public bathrooms and showers, downtown, in balboa park, every neighborhood. Just like at the beaches. It's a matter of human dignity, basic hygiene grooming, public health safety, and civic responsibility. The Business Sector should willingly pay for such bathrooms, else we should have a municipal code requiring public bathrooms in every business storefront that is open to the public.

Good on KPBS for finally giving a megaphone to our elected representatives and allowing them the opportunity to communicate, that's why we pay taxes for public radio and TV to produce a quality public service.

(Remember when the Repub did his monthly talk-show? No? Because he didn't)

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Avatar for user 'Frank_N_Blunt'

Frank_N_Blunt | February 7, 2013 at 1:25 a.m. ― 4 years ago

As we try to address & confront hypocrisy in government, with some progress, there are still horrible gaffes, errors, & tragedies occurring. How about the corruption & injustice of law enforcement & legal system in this case?
To witness injustice in action, see "People" vs Donald Lee Sexton.
2013Feb07, 0900, SD Superior, Dept 51
The prosecutor is a lying fanatic, more concerned with promoting deceptive image & an illusion of posterity than truth, justice, service, & protection for all. Collateral damage at a minor traffic accident? Apprehending witnesses & beating them? Police brutality with pummeling, tasering, & torturing of a good Samaritan offering aid & assistance to others on the scene even the EMTs as well as the potentially injured people, US Navy honorable retiree, community volunteer, environmental scientist, & many other honorable traits exemplifying a gentleman? Inflicting violent harm & serious injuries but not providing any medical treatment while imposing unjust incarceration for nearly a week where disease & sickness is prevalent along with being treated like a dog event though presumed innocent (seemingly not so prevalent in practice much less understood as a fundamental tenet of the legal system)? False charges? Unjust arrest? Framing & slandering an upstanding citizen with trumped-up charges while imposing a $250,000 bail? Collusion, distortion, manipulation, tampering, & other ethical breaches? They, as the perps are determined as the vein of corruption is determined, should admit their horrible errors in profiling among other misguided mistakes in this egregious assault on an honorable citizen's health, rights, & well-being. Stay classy, San Diego.

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Avatar for user 'glennstokes1'

glennstokes1 | February 7, 2013 at 7:11 a.m. ― 4 years ago

RE Balboa Park. How can there be anything wrong with taking it slow and phase in low cost non-permanent traffic and parking alternatives. We need to at least try least cost solutions before ramping up to costly permanent changes that might lock us into new problems. I support Mayor Bob Filner's take it slow and affordable approach.

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Avatar for user 'PatG'

PatG | February 7, 2013 at 7:46 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Wow! A sane mayor!
I am in particular overjoyed to have him address the nuclear power plant that is within 50 miles of millions of California homes and businesses.

Previous governments and the NRC have irresponsibly put all of us in danger- and this is a problem that must be addressed.

How insane is it to constantly create a massive supply of radioactive (aka cancer-causing, death-causing) by-products that must be "creatively" stored for eternity- all of this carefully placed on top of numerous fault lines (by definition- unstable areas that can rip apart at any time) at the edge of our state and our oceans (thereby at risk additionally from tsunamis), within an expected 50-mile contamination radius of MILLIONS of Californians.

Oh, but sorry to bring up reality into our SuperBowl&Oscars addled brains.

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Avatar for user 'Maureen  Cavanaugh'

Maureen Cavanaugh, KPBS Staff | February 7, 2013 at 9:01 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Just a quick bit of information for philosopher3000: We would have loved having Mayor Jerry Sanders as a frequent guest on our station. In fact, we repeatedly told his office he had an open invitation. The standard answer was that his schedule was too busy. If you listen to our interviews, we often mention the elected representatives we contacted but who told us they were unavailable.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 7, 2013 at 7 p.m. ― 4 years ago

CA OFF, thanks for your sarcasm.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 8, 2013 at 12:40 p.m. ― 4 years ago

I asked a valid and reasonable question that is important to many San Diegans.

Please, in your infinite wisdom, tell us why we should not ask such questions.

You're welcome for that last bit of actual sarcasm.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | February 9, 2013 at 9:19 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Go back to Europe!!

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 9, 2013 at 11:56 a.m. ― 4 years ago

I want to know what Mayor Filner is going to do to promote the arts in our city.

We have seen local arts venues gradually increase, but San Diego still remains very far behind other cities when it comes to arts funding.

There is a lot of creativity out there now, but we need a government who will be supportive.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 9, 2013 at 12:09 p.m. ― 4 years ago

CA defender, illegal immigration has been on the DECLINE.

It makes no sense to spend billions on a cat and mouse games for an exaggerated problem.

I'll be blunt. The birth rate for whites (of which I am one) and the birth rate of non-immigrants in he U.S. in general is too low to support the our economy moving forward.

We need immigrants.

It makes no sense to me that people want the government to spend huge sums of money rounding up immigrants when it has no benefit to us economically, socially, or morally.

We should use that money to start investing in our nation's infrastructure because our airports, transportation systems, ports, etc., once the best in he world, are now looking like 3rd world status.

Locally, our region can become more economically viably by working with Tijuana, and building a multinational urban center as opposed to walling-off Mexico and pretending like we aren't a border city.

Why not use our strategic locale to full economic advantage instead of letting xenophobic and nationalistic BS hinder us ?

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | February 10, 2013 at 10:53 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Cus 'Murica!! They took err jebs!!

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Avatar for user 'christyrae'

christyrae | February 10, 2013 at 3:02 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Dear Mayor Filner - I respectfully ask you "where is the money and where is the plan" for the Balboa Park 2015 Centennial?? You state you have a better "low cost" plan that will allow San Diego to welcome 10s of thousands of visitors to the Jewel of San Diego in 2015. It is 2013 and the only plan, respectfully, that you have put forward is a couple of orange cones?? That may in fact be all we can do given the lack of urgency or money put forward by those who opposed the Plaza de Panama plan. What a tragedy for our City and for our beautiful park if we miss this opportunity on your watch!! Sincerely

PS: KPBS it was very disappointing that you spent so little time on this important turn of events that may have far reaching consequences. No hard hitting questions and no followup to the Mayor's simplistic responses.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 12, 2013 at 11:48 a.m. ― 4 years ago


I'm not sure who you are directing "Go back to Europe!!" at. I'm a native Californian. Were you yelling at Bob Filner who is from Pittsburgh? Probably sounds European to you, but it isn't.


Illegal immigration is on the decline due to the poor US economy. Fining and jailing employers will permanently solve the problem, regardless of the economy.

The US is the 3rd most populated nation on Earth. Our unemployment rate is at 10% and our government is broke. The last thing we need are more people from the 3rd world who are uneducated and unskilled.

You could easily make the argument we need more immigrant engineers and scientists, but that is not what Mexico is in surplus of, nor would it be fair (or moral) to leech them of the few they have.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 12, 2013 at 11:16 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Feigning that you "don't get it." lol

See that's why you sometimes can't be taken seriously.

Yes, glad to see to that you can acknowledge socio-economic push-pull factors which others pretend not to see.

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Avatar for user 'Really123'

Really123 | February 13, 2013 at 7:22 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Ilk. Since our last exchange I've been trying to shift my perspective on homeless people on my walk to work. I'm starting to see that some of them look like average people, just homeless. Others, well... I can't say where I'm headed with this, but my view has changed a little. I'm trying to "see" and not just "look". I suppose it's worth mentioning that assuming a group is homegenous is a mistake.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | February 13, 2013 at 10:34 a.m. ― 4 years ago

"I'm not sure who you are directing "Go back to Europe!!" at. I'm a native Californian. "

How far back does your family have roots in California? Who had rights to the land before? What prompted the change in ownership?

America is a nation of immigrants. Telling people to go back to their home countries is akin to me telling you to go back to Europe. What would you tell a Navajo? To go back to America? Pretty smart.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 13, 2013 at 4:10 p.m. ― 4 years ago


My family came to California just after the Civil War. The land they bought was likely owned by... other Californians.

Today, America is comprised of 12% immigrants. Not exactly a "nation of immigrants" but historically, I would agree. Everyone's genealogy will trace them to somewhere else, including the Navajo.

I'm not telling anyone to go back anywhere, that would be you. I'm suggesting that new immigrants come here legally and adopt the Californian culture as their own.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | February 13, 2013 at 5:01 p.m. ― 4 years ago

"Legally" wasn't how European settlers came. The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed under duress, due to American violence.

Many European settlers and pioneers have blood on their hands. (eg Manifest Destiny)

How silly does it seem that the descendants of the same violent European settlers are now crying for "legal" immigration. Practice what you preach.

If nothing else, these "illegals" can have kids, and their kids can have kids, and a few generations later it'll all be ok, just like it's ok for you to be here.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 14, 2013 at 2:11 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Yes, Europeans conquered the Americas. That method of expansion was wrong then and it is wrong today (yet some still engage in it).

But keep in mind, Mexicans are not native to California as they violently took her from Spain. Thankfully, a short 25 years later, California won her independence back.

But I find it curious that you think Mexicans have no blood on their hands. They aggressively exterminated nearly all of the native population, including the remnants of the Aztecs and Mayans, well into the 20th Century.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | February 14, 2013 at 6:14 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Considering most immigrants come to America to work, instead of killing us and taking over, we should be ready to appreciate that by streamlining the process, and making it cheap if not free.

Arguing over who's illegal is ridiculous when you ignore the realities of legal immigration. It's often a long, expensive process most can't accommodate.

But we need background checks and health screenings. We need to get work visas issued so ID/SSN theft isn't as prominent. Most importantly, we need to offer an incentive in order to get people to actually get these things done. Free legal immigration is that incentive.

It is an investment in properly dealing with reality. The next step would be helping bolster Mexico's economy so there's not such a drastic difference in economic conditions. We have done this (although backwards) through our recession. Less work and less value to the dollar slowed all immigration - legal and illegal. Equalizing economies of geographic neighbors is a much more efficient, long-term way of dealing with the issue.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 18, 2013 at 11:50 a.m. ― 4 years ago


Yes, the system needs to be streamlined, but who is going to pay for "free" legal immigration? Applicants should, not citizens.

However, I do fully agree with your last paragraph. We need to have a Marshall Plan for Mexico. Improving their economy and quality of life is the best possible way to fight illegal immigration.

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