Arnold Schwarzenegger

Michael Ochs ArchivesGetty Images

On September 16, 1983, Arnold Schwarzenegger became a U.S. citizen along with 2,000 other people at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Photos from that day capture Schwarzenegger’s pure joy: clutching miniature American flags with one arm around his future wife, Maria Shriver; cutting a cake while wearing a sleeveless American-flag tank top at his citizenship party. And although it’s been over 35 years since that day, Schwarzenegger still expresses love for his adopted country.

In a new interview for the October cover of Men’s Health, Schwarzenegger revealed how his experience as a foreigner colors his perspective on present-day immigration issues:

“Well, I see it in the gym. I see guys I meet in the gym that are from Austria. They’re aggressive. They’re from Israel, they’re from France, they’re from Germany, from Russia, from all kinds of different places. And they find their way, because what happens when you’re a foreigner is, you have the work ethic. You know that you have to struggle from the beginning; otherwise you wouldn’t be leaving your country. If you had this wonderful, rosy atmosphere, you would not want to leave.

Let me tell you something. When I travel around the world, the most common thing that people always come up to me about—and I’m a very accessible kind of guy, right?—people come up to me in the gym or at a restaurant and say, ‘America.’ America. People everywhere, no matter how much they dump on America, no matter how much people laugh at Trump right now all over the world—they want to come to America. Because they know that one president, one man, cannot change this country.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Michael Ochs ArchivesGetty Images

Schwarzenegger reiterated his support for comprehensive immigration reform in his Men’s Health interview, saying, “I don’t blame anybody that tries to come here illegally.”

He’s been outspoken about the need for immigration reform, tweeting in 2018 about his unique background as both an immigrant and the Republican governor of California.

“As an immigrant, I know the magnetic power of America’s greatness,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “As a former border Governor, I know the importance of securing our border and fixing our absurdly broken immigration system. As an American, I know that kids shouldn’t be pawns while the ‘adults’ figure it out.”

Schwarzenegger was born near Graz, Austria in 1947. When he was 10 years old, he began to dream of moving to America after seeing newsreels.

“I saw the skyscrapers, and the bridges, and the highways, and the cars with the fins sticking out, and all this stuff. Hollywood,” Schwarzenegger told LA Weekly in 2002. “I said, ‘What am I doing here on the farm? Oh, God, I‘ve got to move on. How do I move on?'”

Young Schwarzenegger idolized bodybuilder Reg Park and began to see bodybuilding as a way to leave Austria for the United States. Schwarzenegger first immigrated to the U.S. in 1968, and over the next decade became one of the most celebrated bodybuilders in history, winning five Mr. Universe titles and six Mr. Olympia crowns during his career.

His fame as a bodybuilder and the acclaimed documentary Pumping Iron helped kickstart a successful run as a Hollywood leading man, starring in films like Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, and Predator, before he was elected to serve as governor of California in 2003.

Read more about Schwarzenegger’s career in politics and film in the October issue of Men’s Health.

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