California is the leader in just about everything — or at least it thinks everything trendy starts on the Left Coast. However, the Golden State has achieved a dubious No. 1 distinction for legislative lunacy.

Immigration reform has long been one of the most complex and contentious issues in America made even more controversial and problematic by 9/11 and terrorism. In the midst of the current immigration reform debate, Southern California U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher offers up the all-time inane, politically asinine solution to the immigration issue: “I say let the prisoners pick the fruits."

Who is this guy and what is he using for brains? His biography says he is a former Southern California surfer who worked on Ronald Reagan’s staff. He has been elected to Congress nine times, representing a stretch of Pacific coastline from Huntington Beach to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, one of the ritziest stretches of real estate in the world that would cease to function without illegal immigrants. There are probably more illegal immigrants working on average each day of the week in that stretch of California than any place in the state.

Terrorism and 9/11 have eschewed as issue seemingly beyond hope of a reasonable solution. It has evolved into a nightmare for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S., their children and relatives.

Most Americans view the illegal immigrant issue as an agricultural issue. Illegal immigrant farm workers make up a very small part of those 11 million people. If Rohrabacher and some of his right wing cronies get their “let the prisoners pick fruit” way, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Seattle and the rest of the major cities in this country will grind to a halt.

As the more reasonably good thinkers have said, American is a land of immigrants. Few of us are from here. We all came from somewhere else for a better life, and now some want to shut the door on those who would follow.

Building a fence along the Mexican border and hiring more Border Patrol agents will not stop terrorists. It will stop only a few people trying to find a better life.

I am all for keeping terrorists out, and contrary to all the flap Bush has been getting about wiretaps and the other tools the administration has used to stop terrorism in America, this administration has done a good job of protecting our borders since 9/11. America’s borders will never be impenetrable for those bent on destruction.

However, to punish illegal immigrants now in this country and to punish those who hire them to make America somehow feel safer is tragically wrong.

As for Mr. Rohrabacher, if prisoners are good enough for him to pick the fruit he eats, then I say let prisoners clean his home, tend the homes and landscapes of his constituents, bus table, cook and serve food at all the restaurants in Southern California, serve as housekeepers in the hotels and resorts in his district in Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa and Palos Verdes Estates.

Make it illegal for all Southern California business owners and rich folks to hire illegal aliens. Send them all to prison for hiring illegals because people will be needed to fill prisons emptied to replace all the illegal immigrants Mr. Rohrabacher wants to run out of his district.

e-mail:hcline@farmpress.com