From the anti-immigrants camp the message could not be clearer. Month after month we’ve heard Tom Tancredo and Jim Sensenbrenner try to convince the American people that their security, and perhaps their very existence, hinges on the closing of the nations borders and the removal of all those who have entered this country “illegally”. They do not equivocate. In their ideology there is no room for compassion, human dignity or even reason. Nightly their mouthpiece in the guise of Lou Dobbs rants about hordes of “illegal aliens” invading over the border to take jobs from an economically vulnerable middle and working class. Senators Kyl and Cornyn warn us that any form of compromise or kindness would be giving “criminals” a free pass, an “amnesty” that would only encourage more lawbreakers to enter our already crowded and economically suffering nation. Congressmen Hayworth and King claim that no compromise should be made with those who have broken the law and to do so would only be a slap in the face to those who have gone through the long and arduous process of gaining legal entry into the US. In the minds of the adherents of this philosophy there are no grays, only black and white. For them the whole issue of immigration and immigration reform comes down to “they broke the law to come here… they are criminals…and should be treated as such.”

But what if one of these “illegals”… these interlopers, these invaders, was one of their own? Not some poor, starving, worker with few skills and fewer prospects. Not one in whose veins runs the blood of conquistadores and the conquered. Not one who has left family and friends behind in abject poverty in hopes that he might be the one savior, provider and lifeline that might keep them from falling further and further into despair.

What if he was famous, and rich, and white, married to American royalty and the Governor of the nation’s most populous state.

What if he was Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Schwarzenegger entered the United States in 1968 on a B-1 visa, which allows a select group of visitors, such as training athletes, to come into the United States for brief periods of business. Under this rule, “a non-immigrant in B-1 status may not receive a salary from a U.S. source for services rendered in connection with his or her activities in the United States.” However, the rules do allow immigrants to receive “actual reasonable expenses,” such as money for food and hotel rooms.

In his 1977 autobiography, Schwarzenegger stated that he worked out an agreement with Joe Weider to come to America. Under this agreement, Schwarzenegger provided Weider information about how he trained, while Weider provided Schwarzenegger with an apartment, a car, and payment of a weekly salary.(of $200 a week)

Here we have the first of Arnold’s “illegal” immigration activities. He clearly was in violation of immigration law by working in the United States without a proper work visa, but this would not be the only time Arnold would violate immigration laws.

Schwarzenegger attorney Tom Hiltachk said Schwarzenegger received an H-2 visa, which allowed him to work in this country, in November 1969 ( on a sponsorship by Weider)– after more than a year in the United States…

… Schwarzenegger’s new ad campaign on a Spanish-language radio station announces his humble beginnings in America as a bricklayer. Several immigration attorneys also believe that he violated the terms of his H-2 work visa by launching this bricklaying business in 1971. According to further reports by the Mercury News, immigration attorneys across the country said Schwarzenegger would have been barred by visa restrictions from starting his own business.

So how did Arnold start on his road to fame and fortune … the all-American Republican way, he broke the law and took advantage of other peoples suffering.

After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake left 65 people dead and caused more than $500 million in damage, Schwarzenegger joined forces with one of his closest friends, fellow immigrant Franco Columbu, to launch European Brick Works in Santa Monica.

“I started up with a friend of mine a bricklaying business here, and we were successful in no time,” Schwarzenegger told Interview magazine in 1985. “We had 16 people working for us, and we were all over town, building chimneys after the earthquake.”

Mercury News 9/21/03

(Schwarzenegger’s lawyer) Hiltachk said it is unclear what type of visa Schwarzenegger had when he started the bricklaying business. But whether Schwarzenegger had an H-2 or another temporary visa, immigration attorneys said, the bodybuilder would have been barred from doing any work as a bricklayer or handyman.

“If they come into the United States to pick tomatoes, they can’t go out and work at McDonald’s,” said Nancy Alby, an assistant center director at the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Naturalization Services, who spoke in general about H-2 visas and did not comment specifically on Schwarzenegger’s case. “They have to do exactly what they were let into the United States to do.”

In regards to the H-2 visa, the law is clear you can only work temporarily and in a specific field. You certainly cannot start your own business on this kind of temporary work visa.

H-2 visas were created to allow workers from other nations to come to the United States for short periods to take on temporary jobs such as picking seasonal crops, cooking at summer resorts or working as ski instructors.

The visas restrict holders from doing work beyond what is explicitly approved by the federal government

“Whether it’s one hour or 40 hours a week, it was considered employment,” said Don Ungar, a San Francisco attorney who has practiced immigration law since 1962. “That would be considered a violation of your status, and he would have been subject to deportation.”

Mercury News 9/21/2003

Arnold would have been “subject to deportation”, a violator of US immigration laws. But that’s not how Arnold now tells the story:

“People like myself waited for 15 years after I came to this country – legally – to get citizenship,” Schwarzenegger said recently on talk radio.

“So I find it unfair to push the whole thing of undocumented immigrants and to say, `Well, you know they should just get their citizenship because they’re coming in.'”

Mercury News 9/13/2003

Perhaps Mr. Sensenbrenner or Mr. Tancredo would like to explain how it is that the current Governor of California is not an “illegal alien” who has broken the laws of this country and skipped ahead of millions of “good immigrants” who have “played by the rules” to become legal residents and citizens of this country. Perhaps they could let us know why the rules they are so hell bent on applying to others should not be applied to Mr. Schwazenegger.

For Arnold, like 12 million others … according to the anti-immigrant Republicans, there can never be any amnesty.

From HR 4437 comes this definition of who is an “illegal alien” who would be guilty of “illegal presence” and therefore a felon.


(2) An alien described in this paragraph is an alien who–

(A) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers;

(B) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers;

(C) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact; or

(D) is otherwise present in the United States in violation of the immigration laws or the regulations prescribed there under.

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