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Has McCain Flip-Flopped on Immigration?

The Republican nominee will have to defend himself against unfair accusations if he doesn't want to lose Hispanic support.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.


June 25, 2008 - 12:41 am
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I may be the only person in the country who doesn’t see a contradiction here. It could be that McCain isn’t really talking about enforcement-only but “enforcement first” – as part of comprehensive reform. That is, you wind up with one bill that secures the borders and then, when that’s done, allows for some form of legalization for some of the undocumented.

In fact, McCain has already sponsored such a bill. The second coming of McCain-Kennedy, as amended in 2007, allowed for a series of enforcement “triggers” – goals that had to be met before any kind of legalization could take place. What is that, if not “enforcement first” on the way to comprehensive reform?

If that is what McCain supports – and I have a hunch it is – then he needs to say so loud and clear. He will have the opportunity to do so next month in San Diego when he addresses the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza. Before that group, he needs to say unequivocally what he would do as president to fix the immigration system, and in what order he would do it. Then he has to stand by it.

The hour is getting late. Democrats are concerned enough about McCain’s acumen in attracting Hispanic support – and Obama’s shortcoming in that arena – that they’re busy advancing this line that McCain has flip-flopped on immigration in the hopes that Hispanics will make him persona non grata.

For what it’s worth, I think that’s a lie. And shame on those who are spreading it because they have a weak hand. But it’s up to McCain to defend himself against that accusation. And, if he doesn’t because he’s afraid that expressing his true feelings will weaken support within his own party, then shame on him.

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Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune, a nationally syndicated columnist, a frequent lecturer, and a regular contributor to
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