McCain Courts Legalization, Latino Votes

By The News May 22, 2007

Republican presidential hopefuls and rivals Sen. John McCain and former Gov. Mitt Romney are throwing mud at each other over the Senate’s new immigration bill proposing a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants, a guest-worker program, a fenced border, and a point-based system determining who gets in the country and who doesn’t. Romney strongly detests the heavily-disputed bill. By saying that the bill awards illegal immigration to America, he is trying to expand his hard conservative base. But McCain is wary of Republican dissent on the issue of legalization because he’s afraid Republicans will lose Latino votes.This week McCain called out Romney saying that while he doesn’t support illegal immigrants working inside the country, there’s no doubt that Romney has some immigrants mowing his lawn. The Boston Herald reported:

“Maybe he can get out his small-varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his yard,” said McCain, adding that he would “wait a couple of weeks” to see if Romney’s immigration stance changes. The sharp words by the Arizona senator – referencing Romney saying he hunts “varmints,” and reports that he has used illegal immigrant lawn workers – fueled the GOP presidential campaign slugfest over immigration.

As suspected, the Republican rough-and-tumble handling of the immigration issues misses the bigger picture–which is analyzing the ethical and political duties and implications of an immigration bill. Many instead are playing up petty attacks to woo voters. But this dispute in particular raises important questions. Will the Republican fear of losing Latino voters be great enough to forge ahead with progressive immigration policies? If so, can anyone be trusted with its progressive implementation?