As the battle over Latino voters heats up in this year’s Arizona Senate race, U.S. Sen. John McCain welcomed U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Javier Palomarez to Tucson yesterday.
Palomarez flew in from D.C. to give McCain the national chamber’s endorsement and praised McCain’s military service as well as his support of the Latino business community and his leadership in pushing a 2013 comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate. The so-called “Gang of Eight” bill later died when the GOP-controlled House refused to bring it up for vote.
“We’ve seen other candidates for the presidency run from the Gang of Eight bill,” Palomarez said. “Sen. McCain has never run from the Gang of Eight bill. He’s stood firm on what he did back then and he supports it today. It’s that kind of consistency and political courage that we endorse and few in this country have that kind of characteristic like John McCain does.”
The endorsement highlighted one of the storylines of the 2016 campaign: Republicans say McCain is too soft on immigration, while Democrats say he’s too much of a hardliner.
McCain’s likely Democratic opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick, debuted an online campaign ad yesterday that criticized McCain for what she called his “immigration doublespeak.” The ad highlighted McCain’s vote against the DREAM Act as well as his support for a border wall in his 2010 reelection campaign and his pledge to support Donald Trump, should he become the GOP presidential nominee.
Trump famously launched his White House run with a speech in which he characterized undocumented Mexican immigrants as “people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” (On the positive side, Trump added that “some, I assume, are good people.”)
And both Trump and Cruz have said that they want to deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country, including the so-called DREAMers who were brought to country as children and who have grown up in the United States, rather than provide a path to citizenship as outlined in the Gang of Eight bill. (Cruz has been consistent on this point, while Trump has wavered from time to time—but Cruz has not promised a make Mexico pay for a border wall, so you can decide for yourself who is more a hardliner on the issue.)
McCain said yesterday that he believed some of the current Republican presidential candidates would eventually embrace a comprehensive immigration reform proposal similar to Gang of Eight bill. But when asked which of the candidates would do that, McCain said, “I don’t know, but I know this: I will do everything that I can to resolve this issue because I know that it has be resolved by whoever is president of the United States.”
Palomarez said that the high disapproval numbers represented a major problem for the GOP presidential hopefuls because “every 30 second, a Latino turns 18 and becomes an eligible voter. That’s 60,000 brand-new voters every single month and that’s going to be the case for the next 21 years in a row.”
“I’ve had conversation with both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump on this issue of immigration and we’ve agreed to disagree,” Palomarez added. “They will never see the White House without at least 47 percent of the Hispanic vote. It’s simply not going to happen. So their challenge now is, what do you do if you get the nomination? How do you begin to un-ring the bell and how do you find a way to move forward to win the Latino vote. It’s going to be very, very difficult for some of them.”