Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s popularity among Latinos has plummeted in the last several months, with only 17 percent approving of his performance as governor. Although the drop in popularity reflects the general trend, Latinos have very specific reasons for their movement away from Schwarzenegger. As governor of a key state with an economy rivaling that of major industrialized nations, California’s relationship with Mexico is crucial. Yet during Schwarzenegger’s tenure as governor, the state’s links with our southern neighbor have taken a beating. Although he has stated a number of times how much he likes Mexico because he made a number of movies there, the fact is that Schwarzenegger’s relationship with Mexican leaders has been chilly. In part it has to do with the governor’s statements about the border. Schwarzenegger came out in support of the Minuteman Project, stating that the border needs to be “closed.” He soon tried to defuse the remark with humor, saying he needs to go back to school and improve his English because what he really meant was “secure” the border. But then he reiterated his support for the Minutemen, whom President George W. Bush labeled “vigilantes.” Mexican leaders are very sensitive to border issues because they realize very well that illegal immigration to the U.S. is a clear indication that they fail as government officials. If they managed to provide enough jobs, there wouldn’t be a “border problem” as there isn’t with Canada. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Schwarzenegger’s actions with Latinos in California have also come under fire. One of the first things he did as governor was to push the Legislature to repeal SB 60, a law which would have given undocumented workers the right to obtain driver’s licenses. The governor promised Democratic legislators he would support a new and improved law to accomplish the same task. Yet, he hasn’t. Even a new bill passed this year which would give undocumented workers driver’s licenses with a distinct design and color – conditions he demanded a year ago – does not satisfy him. Schwarzenegger’s problems with Latinos are real, as evidenced by a recent letter written by a group of Latino Republicans. The letter states that the governor has done little to deserve Latino support and points out that he has appointed virtually no Latinos to his Cabinet. One of the complaints in the letter is the fact that Schwarzenegger does not support Latino candidates running for office. The letter also attacks California’s GOP as “morally wrong and politically stupid.” The GOP relationship with immigrants and particularly Latinos has always been cool at best. Schwarzenegger’s actions reflect some strategists’ belief that the Republican Party’s embrace of the Minutemen and other right-wing groups alienates Latinos and hands over their votes to the Democratic Party. Latino members of the GOP tend to be strong supporters of their party officials. When a group of them openly criticizes a sitting governor, it means that serious problems are certainly present. Margita Thompson, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, has said that the governor has done a lot to improve the lives of all Californians, and that includes Latinos. She pointed to an improved economic climate and gave credit to Schwarzenegger. But, given the governor’s plummeting approval rating, few people seem to buy that argument. Schwarzenegger’s initial popularity as governor infected everyone, including Latinos, 31 percent of whom voted for him. Now that he has been governor for almost two years, people have had a chance to see what he actually does. Schwarzenegger recently announced that he will seek re-election in 2006. The Latino vote represents 14 percent of the total California electorate. Can Schwarzenegger prevail without the support of this rising group? Domenico Maceri is a professor of Romance languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!