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Corinne Ramey

McCain Flip-Flops on Immigration

You know it's election season when the flip-flops come out of the closet. No, not the shoes, but the accusations -- made popular beyond belief by critics of John Kerry in '04 -- that politicians are swapping an old position for a new one. A little spring cleaning around election time, if you will.

The latest flip-flop accusation was yesterday, with Senator Robert Menendez accusing John McCain of flip-flopping on immigration in an interview with the Huffington Post. From the article:

"In my mind, he has dramatically shifted. He has really taken a Republican tact," said the New Jersey Democrat. "It seems to me, and it is out there in the community, that he walked away at a critical time. And when you take that view, which shows that he is not the person of principle that he would like to show himself being, and you wear the Republican mantle that is so negative and anti-immigrant... I think it is very hard for John McCain to make hay with Latinos at the end of the day."

During the course of the Republican primary, McCain veered away from his support of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, citing, openly, the political pressures being put on him by the conservative base.

McCain, the so called "maverick" who allegedly isn't afraid to stand up for his principles, doesn't deny the flip-flop, either. Media Matters gives this November 2007 AP article as an example:

"I understand why you would call it a, quote, shift," McCain told reporters Saturday after voters questioned him on his position during back-to-back appearances in this early voting state. "I say it is a lesson learned about what the American people's priorities are. And their priority is to secure the borders."

A quick look at McCain's position on immigration shows that the old McCain was nothing like the McCain of today. In 2005, McCain worked to develop a comprehensive immigration reform bill with other members of Congress, including Senators Kennedy and Obama. In 2006, McCain gave a statement on his thoughts on immigration on the Senate floor. The following are excerpts from that statement:

*"However, I do not believe the Senate should or will pass an "enforcement only" bill. Our experiences with our current immigration system have proven that outdated or unrealistic laws will never be fully enforceable, regardless of every conceivable border security improvement we make."
*"We need to establish a temporary worker program that permits workers from other countries - to the extent they are needed - to fill jobs that would otherwise go unfilled."
*"As long as this situation exists, without a legal path for essential workers to enter the country, we will have desperate people illegally crossing our borders and living in the shadows of our towns, cities and rural communities. That is not acceptable, particularly when we are fighting the war on terror. The vast majority of individuals attempting to cross our borders do not intend to harm our country; they are coming to meet our demand for labor and to earn money to feed their families."
*"That is why any immigration legislation that passes Congress must establish a legal channel for workers to enter the United States after they have passed background checks and have secured employment."

Surprisingly, McCain sounds almost, well, sane. In the statement he speaks of the economic contributions of immigrants, the importance of immigrants to the American job force (he mentions rotting fruit in California because farmers can't find workers), and the need for a policy that treats immigrants humanely -- as people, not criminals.

But two years later, this has all changed. When I went to McCain's website and clicked on the "issues" drop down menu, I was initially surprised that "immigration" didn't pop up as one of the issues. That is, until I realized that McCain had given "immigration" a new name: "border security." Immigration is nowhere to be found. And when I clicked on that tab, I found a surprisingly short (372 words, to be exact) essay on the importance of a militarized border. McCain now takes a hard line on immigration, never once mentioning a path to citizenship or the economic importance of immigrants. A few excerpts:

*"As president, I will secure the border."
*"A secure border is an essential element of our national security."
*"Border security and our failed immigration system are more examples of an ailing Washington culture in need of reform to regain the trust of Americans."

Straight talk, indeed.

Corinne Ramey: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 10:37 AM, Jun 13, 2008 in Immigration
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