SACRAMENTO - Amid a national debate and protests on immigration, state treasurer and potential Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides said he was unaware of core issues before Congress and was trying to repair the politically damaging comment Tuesday.

Asked one of the questions he's bumbled about illegal immigrants on KGO Radio in the Bay Area, Angelides said, ``I'm prepared for you today. I did my homework.''

On Friday, Univision TV says it asked Angelides about a House of Representatives bill that would make it a felony to be in the United States illegally, impose new penalties on employers who hire illegals and build more fences along the U.S.-Mexican border.

``I'm not familiar with it, but if you send me some information today I can give you an answer later,'' Angelides answered. Though Angelides' aides later told reporters the treasurer opposes the House bill, Democratic gubernatorial campaign for controller Steve Westly accused Angelides of dodging the question of where he stands on immigration issues.

Westly spokesman Nick Velasquez said the controller opposes the House bill.

``It criminalizes undocumented workers in this country, which isn't good for public safety, the budget or the problem of illegal immigration at all,'' Velasquez said.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov.


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Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is running for re-election, said during an appearance in San Francisco Tuesday that ``the federal government has got to get their act together'' where immigration policy and border security are concerned.

He lauded U.S. Sens. Ted Kennedy, John McCain and Dianne Feinstein for helping to push the issue to the fore, and he urged the rest of Congress not to ``debate about what is best for politics instead of what is best for our country.''

If California businesses have exhausted the state's labor pool and still can't fill all their jobs, they should be free to hire from abroad so long as those workers have visas, Schwarzenegger said, adding he'd let the ``geniuses in Washington'' address what to do about workers already here illegally.

In a San Francisco news conference Tuesday, Bay Area Latino community leaders and immigrant rights activists, led by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, called on communities to unite against what he called federal anti-immigrant legislation.

``We support the protesters,'' he said.

In Southern California and other states again Tuesday, thousands of students took to the streets to protest proposed toughening of immigration laws. But authorities tightened control by thwarting efforts to block freeway traffic, rounding up some youngsters and issuing truancy citations.

Youths waving Mexican flags and wearing white T-shirts marched for a second day in Los Angeles County, and school walkouts were reported in San Diego, Riverside and Fresno counties, Las Vegas and Texas.

``It's not right,'' said Eddie Rodriguez, 15, of Carson High School, wearing a Mexican flag bandanna on his head. ``The United States is nothing without immigrants. The United States is nothing without Mexicans.''

Teenagers rallied despite rain and campus lockdowns, but their numbers were far smaller than the tens of thousands who marched Monday.

But some swarmed onto a freeway in the San Pedro harbor area, forcing officers to briefly close down lanes at rush hour and herd them away. Police issued 100 truancy citations to students in San Pedro.

Freshman Mercedes Estrada, 15, got a $250 truancy citation after gathering outside San Pedro High with several hundred others to march, only to be picked up by police and returned to the school auditorium to await their parents.

``I thought it was wrong. I was just trying to support my friends,'' she said.

Her father, Rolando Ochoa, 35, a legal immigrant from Mexico, had mixed feelings about his daughter skipping school. Education is important but ``I always told her to do what she feels.''

In one instance, about 200 students were rounded up, put on buses and taken to four schools, Los Angeles School police officer Clark Fujiwara said outside Wilmington Middle School, where some were returned.

The huge Hispanic and immigrant population of Southern California mobilized last week in response to immigration reform proposals, culminating in a weekend Los Angeles City Hall rally by more than 500,000 people who demanded amnesty and civil rights for illegal immigrants.

The U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would clear the way for millions of illegal immigrants to seek U.S.

citizenship.

But lawmakers are also considering legislation that would make it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally, impose new penalties on employers who hire illegals and build more fences along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Tuesday's protesters in Los Angeles ignored officials' pleas to stay in school and discuss the issues in special forums, as well as warnings of unspecified consequences for walkouts.

In the Central Valley, 1,000 students rallied at Fresno City Hall, waving Mexican, Salvadoran and U.S. flags, and carrying signs reading ``Who will pick your fruits?'' and ``The economy would collapse without us.''

``We're not kids, we're the future. We're the ones that are going to be sitting inside this building one day,'' said Carlos Zelaya, 18, pointing to City Hall.

Staff writer Josh Richman and wire services contributed to this report.

Contact Sacramento bureau chief Steve Geissinger at sgeissinger@angnewspapers.com.