McCain's immigration distortions: still misleading Latino voters

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Update: Alex Koppelman at has weighed in on the McCain ad; full text below.  Also, New American Media's Henry Fernandez asks why McCain has changed his tune after earlier thanking Obama for supporting comprehensive reform. (End update.)

In case John McCain's misleading Spanish-language ad got lost in the weekend shuffle (perhaps accounting for its release late last week), here is the SF Chronicle's Joe Garofoli's take on it, with bonus quote from former INS Commissioner Doris Meissner.

The 30-second spot states that "Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they? The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail."

Not exactly. It was the lack of Republican support that killed immigration reform last time around.

Comrade Tyche Hendricks, who has written extensively on the U.S.-Mexico border for The Chronicle and (for an upcoming book), contacted Doris Meissner, who is a senior fellow at the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

"I don't know that you can say 'poison pill' because things hadn't gotten far enough so that anything would actually rise to that level (of poisoning the bill's chances)," Meissner said.

"I know there were people who were disappointed by the amendment that Obama put in," Meissner said. "But it's disengenuous because at that point McCain had backed away from the bill, which he had sponsored the year before, and he was not to be found in the debate because it was dividing the Republican party in the Senate. It was the lack of Republican votes that sank the bill."

Indeed, McCain said at this GOP debate in January that he wouldn't vote for his own immigration bill:

How could we forget? John McCain is hoping that Latino voters do forget. And why is he running this ad now in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada?

This is why (via Bender's): 

Despite being the country's biggest and fastest-growing minority group, being 15 percent of the U.S. population, Latinos make up just 9 percent of eligible voters, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

But their concentration and growth in a handful of hotly contested states -- Florida, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico among them -- lead some analysts to think their votes could tip the election one way or the other. Those four states alone count for 46 of the 270 electoral votes needed to elect a president.

"Make no mistake about it: The Latino community holds this election in its hands," Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, told the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights organization, at its national convention this summer.

. . .

The "issues" tab on McCain's site does not list immigration. It does, however, list border security. Some analysts say that reflects one of the challenges facing the Arizona senator: He must appeal to Latino voters on immigration without alienating Republican voters opposed to giving illegal immigrants opportunities to legalize their status, which both McCain and Obama favor.

. . .

Polling indicates Latinos are indeed warming up to Obama. A nationwide Pew Hispanic Center poll taken in July gave Obama a 66 percent approval rating among registered Latino voters, overwhelming McCain's 23 percent. That marks a sharp turnaround for the Democrat, who lost the Hispanic vote to Sen. Hillary Clinton by almost 2 to 1 in the Democratic primaries. Another recent Pew survey found that more than 75 percent of Latinos who reported voting for Clinton were inclined to vote for Obama, with 8 percent leaning toward McCain.
McCain knows he has got to turn this situation around to have a chance in November. Apparently he plans to do this by misleading Latino voters and hoping that the press isn't paying too much attention.

So far, it looks to be a safe bet.

Update: Alex Koppelman,, 9/15/08:

New McCain ad is false in any language

It turns out John McCain can lie in Spanish, too.

McCain's campaign is running a Spanish-language TV ad in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico that blames Barack Obama for the failure last year of a sweeping immigration reform bill. "Obama and his congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they?" the ad asks. "The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail."

Like many of McCain's recent attacks, this one glances at the truth, on its way to a more politically expedient falsehood. Yes, Obama did sponsor an amendment last year that threatened to split apart the fragile bipartisan coalition behind the immigration reform bill -- if it had passed. But it failed by a wide margin, like nearly every measure that the coalition opposed. Obama also joined some Democrats in voting for other amendments that Republicans had declared poison pills (because they were less favorable to employers than the GOP wanted), but they failed, too. Republicans offered their fair share of amendments that could have been labeled poison pills as well.

In fact, the main reason the bill collapsed was that a few conservative Republicans dug in their heels and filibustered it to death, insisting on endless time to debate their own poison pills that border security hardliners wanted, even though supporters had managed to fend most of them off already. Only seven Republicans supported the bill on the procedural vote that finally killed it. (McCain backed it, though he skipped earlier votes on the bill on the same day.) Some Democrats wound up backing away from the bill once it was clear it was doomed -- but most Republicans had opposed it from the outset.

Obama may not have been as involved in drafting the immigration legislation as McCain once was (though McCain was on the campaign trail for most of 2007, and wasn't as involved as he once was, either). And yes, he may have backed some amendments that supporters disliked. But it was McCain who abandoned his own legislation after the Republican base rose up against it, and it was McCain, and the White House, who were unable to convince allies on their side of the aisle to change their minds about the bill. Blaming Obama for the failure of immigration reform is simply wrong, no matter what language you do it in.

And here is Henry Fernandez at New American Media (via AlterNet) with some questions for John McCain:

McCain's ad argues that Obama tried to kill reform. Why might we believe this is a lie? Because just two years ago, McCain thanked Obama for his support of comprehensive immigration reform.

Congressional Record, May 25, 2006, Senator McCain:
"I also thank Senators Brownback and Lieberman, Graham and Salazar, Martinez, Obama, and DeWine for their shared commitment to this issue, in working to ensure this [comprehensive immigration] bill moves successfully intact through the legislative process."

Close McCain ally Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) also praised Obama in a letter dated June 28, 2007:
"Thank you for your support of the Immigration Reform Bill. While it failed, your backing of this important legislation meant a lot to me personally. I know that standing firm in the face of extreme pressure has not been easy, and again, I thank you."

Yet just two years later, Senator McCain appears to have forgotten his praise for Senator Obama's steadfast support of immigration reform.

. . .

So why the memory lapse? And why only in Spanish language ads?

That's a good question--why isn't McCain leveling these charges in the English-language media? 

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Rover said:

Border security is just one part of comprehensive immigration reform, which McCain USED to be a supporter of before he started bowing to the Right.

I do some work with America's Voice (, which is pushing for a broad-based and smart immigration strategy, not just the band-aid of "building a fence."

If you're a progressive or recognize the human rights or economic benefits that come with immigration, I encourage you to join us at

Dee said:

McCain is lying to Latino voters and WE need to get the message out to ALL of our viewers and ALL Latinos.
All of the PRO Bloggers should post the same blogs in response to McCain.

McCain wants status quo, Businesses exploiting workers, crony owned Detention Centers and Arpaio and Blackwater oppressing us! He does NOT want comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). That is clear.

We need to get this message out to all voters.
ALL Latinos should be backing Obama!
ALL Pro Bloggers should unite in this message in October.

I think YOU (Citizen Orange) and the entire PRO Blogosphere (our broadcast emails) should UNITE in this.

Kyle, Will YOU and Citizen Orange TAKE THE LEAD and I along with ALL Pro Bloggers will UNITE with you?!

I am with you Kyle!!

Immigration Talk with a Mexican American

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for writing this Dee. Would you be interested in writing something up? I'd post it here and encourage others to post it as well. I wish I had more time for this sort of thing, but I'm just starting up school.

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on September 15, 2008 8:59 AM.

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