Baltimore Sun, San Antonio Express-News endorsements wrongly suggest McCain still supports comprehensive immigration reform

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

In endorsing Sen. John McCain's bid for the Republican presidential nomination, The Baltimore Sun asserted that McCain has "stood his ground" on "immigration reform." However, while McCain now says that border security must be addressed first, he previously said that border security could not be disaggregated from other provisions in the legislation on immigration reform. Similarly, the San Antonio Express-News claimed in its endorsement of McCain that his "advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform" is among the positions that may "be attractive" to "independent voters"; but McCain has said he "would not" vote for his own comprehensive immigration reform proposals.

In a February 10 endorsement of Sen. John McCain (AZ) as the Republican presidential nominee, The Baltimore Sun claimed McCain has "stood his ground" on "immigration reform." The editorial added that McCain's "recent overtures to his party's conservative wing could undercut his appeal to independents," but did not relate this to his position on immigration. Similarly, the San Antonio Express-News asserted in a February 10 endorsement of McCain that his "advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform" is among the positions that have "earned him the mistrust of some party loyalists" but "may actually be attractive points for independent voters." In fact, by his own words and logic, McCain no longer supports comprehensive immigration reform. McCain recently stated that he "would not" support his own comprehensive immigration reform proposal if it came to a vote on the Senate floor. Moreover, while McCain now says that border security must be addressed before any other reforms can be made, he previously said that border security could not be disaggregated from other provisions in legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, or else it would be ineffective.

During CNN's January 30 Republican presidential debate, McCain asserted that he "would not" vote for his own immigration proposal in the Senate:

JANET HOOK (Los Angeles Times staff writer): What I'm wondering is, and you seem to be downplaying that part, at this point, if your original proposal came to a vote in the Senate floor, would you vote for it?

MCCAIN: It won't. It won't. That's why we went through the debate.

HOOK: I know, but what if it did?

MCCAIN: No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the border secured first. And so to say that that would come to the floor of the Senate, it won't. We went through various amendments which prevented that ever, that proposal.

In his February 7 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), McCain asserted that "[o]n the issue of illegal immigration, a position which provoked the outspoken opposition of many conservatives, I stood my ground aware that my position would imperil my campaign." After claiming that "we failed" on immigration, McCain stated: "I accept that, and have pledged that it would be among my highest priorities to secure our borders first, and only after we achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure, would we address other aspects of the problem in a way that defends the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration." Similarly, during his January 27 appearance on Meet the Press, McCain claimed that he would secure the border first, and only after that would he pursue other changes to immigration laws:

McCAIN: The lesson is they want the border secured first. That's the lesson. I come from a border state. I know how to fix those borders with walls, with UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], with sensors, with cameras, with vehicle barriers. They want the border secured first -- and I will do that. And, as president, I will have the border state governors secure -- certify those borders are secured. And then, we will have a temporary worker program with tamper-proof biometric documents, and any employer who employs someone in any other circumstances will be prosecuted.

But in a March 30, 2006, Senate floor statement, McCain said: "While strengthening border security is an essential component of national security, it must also be accompanied by immigration reforms." He added: "[A]s long as there are jobs available in this country for people who live in poverty and hopelessness in other countries, those people will risk their lives to cross our borders -- no matter how formidable the barriers -- and most will be successful." Arguing that "[o]ur reforms need to reflect that reality," McCain said, "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."

From the February 10 San Antonio Express-News editorial:

John McCain seems like an unlikely candidate, let alone undisputed front-runner, for the GOP nomination in 2008. Yet for Republicans, the choice should be clear. McCain is the best nominee to lead the Republican ticket in November.

The Arizona senator's tendency to be a political maverick has earned him the mistrust of some party loyalists. The campaign finance reform measure that bears his name and his advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform and climate stewardship are considered to be examples of his past apostasy by some opponents.

In a general election, these may actually be attractive points for independent voters.

On core conservative issues, however, there should be no doubts about McCain. And since his own brush with scandal shortly after arriving in Congress in the 1980s, he has been an outspoken advocate for accountability and ethics.

From the February 10 Baltimore Sun editorial:

In the Republican primary, John McCain is our choice. The veteran Arizona senator whose political obituary had been all but written has risen like a phoenix to presumptive nominee status. He has stood his ground on tough issues such as immigration reform, campaign finance and torture, and we praised him for it. He is principled and has been willing to compromise. But his recent overtures to his party's conservative wing could undercut his appeal to independents.

And Mr. McCain's passionate support of the Iraq war deeply concerns us. Despite the war's $10 billion monthly drain on the Treasury -- money urgently needed for domestic priorities -- he says he is willing to keep American troops in Iraq indefinitely.

Posted In
Elections, Immigration
Network/Outlet
Baltimore Sun
Show/Publication
San Antonio Express-News
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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