Cross posted from Liberally Conservative
“Immigration is probably a more powerful issue here than almost anyplace that I’ve been,” Mr. McCain said after a stop in Cedar Falls.
An odd statement from a Senator from Arizona, but John McCain claims he is reconsidering his current “amnesty” views for illegal immigrants. The Senator from the Southwest was in Iowa this past Saturday.
The New York Times reported Mr. McCain said he was reconsidering his views on how the immigration law might be changed. He said he was open to legislation that would require people who came to the United States illegally to return home before applying for citizenship, a measure proposed by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana.
Mr. McCain has previously favored legislation that would allow most illegal immigrants to become citizens without leaving the country, typically known as amnesty.
On Saturday morning in Des Moines, Mr. Brownback stood for 30 minutes at a breakfast with Republicans as question after question — without exception — was directed at an immigration system that Iowans denounced as failing. “These people are stealing from us,” said Larry Smith, a factory owner from Truro and a member of the central committee of the state Republican Party.
Finally, Mr. Brownback, with a slight smile, inquired, “Any other topics that people want to talk about?” Brownback shouldn’t be passing the immigration “hot potatoes” around like that; he may get burned.
“What are you going to do with illegal immigrants who come here and become criminals?” demanded Jodi Wohlenhaus, a Republican homemaker who lives outside Des Moines.
Mr. Brownback didn’t answer the question.
The issue has become much more complicated as the presidential campaign has gotten under way, exposing the Republicans in particular to voters who are angry about what they see as porous borders, growing demands from immigrants on the social welfare and education systems and job losses that they link at least in part to a low-wage labor force coming over the border.
Mr. McCain, for example, appeared to distance himself from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat with whom he formed an alliance last year on an immigration bill that stalled in Congress.
“What I’ve tried to point out is we couldn’t pass the legislation,” Mr. McCain said. “So we have to change the legislation so it can pass. And I’ve been working with Senator Kennedy, but we’ve also been working with additional senators, additional House members.”
Mr. McCain focused instead on the proposal by Mr. Pence, a conservative.
“Pence has this touchback proposal,” Mr. McCain said at a news conference. “I said hey, let’s consider that if that’s a way we can get some stuff.”
Mr. McCain’s aides said his identification with Mr. Kennedy accounted for much of his political problem on the issue with conservatives. One of his rivals for the nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, has taken to attacking what he calls the McCain-Kennedy bill.
McCain staffers then began to spin the candidates view on immigration.
Mr. McCain’s aides said they were confident that he could overcome concerns among Iowa voters if he pointed to the enforcement mechanisms he supports, arguing that only about one-third of Republican primary voters have strong-line views on immigration.
“How are we dealing with it?” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain. “We’re facing it head-on. John’s position — and the president’s position — is widely supported by a vast majority of primary and caucus voters.”
So McCain is not serious about sending illegal immigrants back to Mexico, he is spinning his response to the majority of primary and caucus voters. To McCain it’s all about votes and he doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for punishing lawbreakers, instead giving them a pardon through amnesty.
“Senator McCain will be hurt badly if he continues to support a bill like last time,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. “I think he’ll have a hard time defending that piece of legislation. I think it would be important for him to demonstrate that his position on immigration is not defined by the bill that he introduced last time.”
A front-page article in The Des Moines Register after the first day of Mr. McCain’s bus trip here focused on his defending his efforts on changing immigration laws.
Mr. Smith, the Republican Party central committee member, said Mr. McCain’s views on immigration had eliminated him as a contender in the view of many state Republicans.
“I have a hard time appreciating McCain’s position at all on this issue,” Mr. Smith said. “I feel he’s been extremely weak.”
“When I go county to county visiting 29 counties in my area, I believe almost without exception that immigration is that issue that puts fire in their eyes,” he said. “They just really are livid that we have allowed this to happen to the point it has.”
“The business community has always been skeptical about any requirement to make workers leave the U.S. to obtain legal status,” said Laura Reiff, of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which represents service industries. “We haven’t ruled a Pence-like touchback completely out of the question, but it would need to be an efficient, functional process.”
I would suggest Ms. Reiff spend some time in prison if she feels hiring illegal immigrants is a position important to take. She can spin all she wants but defending amnesty means you currently support hiring illegal immigrants, who many Iowans call “criminal.”
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