On The Bus With McCain: Immigration
McCain Becomes A Member of the Enforcement First Crowd
By Adam C Posted in 2008 — Comments (39) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
At a Haverhill townhall meeting, two questioners asked about immigration. Below are McCain's responses to the back-to-back questions.
The second question was about how long it would take to secure the border before moving on to dealing with current illegal immigrants.
Senator McCain is the well known sponsor of the McCain-Kennedy Comprehensive Immigration Reform effort. The Senator learned several lessons from its demise. First, he articulately recognizes that the main reason for failure is because people do not trust the government to secure the border. He mentions the 1986 amnesty and border security bill that lead to amnesty, but not border security. He seems to understand that voters will not make that mistake again and they want enforcement first.
More analysis below:
McCain still believes in some form of guest worker program or earned legalization, but he is fully on board with enforcement of the border first. He sees a secure border as a way to win back the trust of citizens and then he would move on to deal with the current illegal aliens in the country.
As a fellow advocate of comprehensive immigration reform, McCain's strategic change strikes me as smart. He will not win over those anti-immigrant voters who don't want more immigrants legal or illegal in the country. But those who are sympathetic to individual (and otherwise law-abiding) illegal aliens but care about the ability of government to fundamental enforce the rule of law and thus want border security before any other immigration reforms should be happy to have converted one of the biggest comprehensive immigration reform advocates.
McCain's specific idea is to require border state governors to certify that the border is secure before moving to any guest worker program. This stems from his belief that distrust of the federal government makes any federal declaration less trustworthy than a state governor.
Since Republican primary voters in NH will probably be choosing between Huckabee (Mr. White Guilt), Rudy (Mr. Sanctuary City), Romney (Mr. Flip-Flop on illegal immigration) and McCain (Mr. Earned Legalization), they will have to evaluate what the candidates have done in the past and what they would do if elected. McCain would not deport illegal immigrants and will lose some hardline votes for that stance, but he may also be the best suited to actually secure the border because no one can credibly attack him of being an anti-immigrant Tancredo type. Perhaps, McCain securing the border could be the modern form of Nixon going to China.