McCain and Obama Mislead on Immigration

Last Friday, a New York Times editorial sharply criticized both candidates for their recent Spanish-language ads that hurled untrue accusations from all sides.

Mr. McCain lied first, in a Spanish-language ad that accused Mr. Obama of helping to kill immigration reform last year, by voting for amendments that supposedly doomed a bipartisan bill. The ad lamented the result: “No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. No reform. Is that being on our side?”

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That is a jaw-dropping distortion. The bill wasn’t killed by any amendments. It was killed by a firestorm of talk-radio rage and a Republican-led filibuster. The very bill that Mr. McCain now mourns is the one he sidled away from as his own party weakened and killed it. It’s the one he says he would now vote against.

For Mr. McCain to suggest that Mr. Obama opposes the “path to citizenship” and “guest worker program” compounds his dishonesty. Mr. Obama supports the three pillars of comprehensive reform — tougher enforcement, expanded legal immigration and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here.

Mr. McCain was an architect of just such a comprehensive bill. But he is also leading a party whose members rabidly oppose the path to citizenship. So, in deference to them, Mr. McCain now emphasizes border security as the utmost priority. Except when he’s pandering in Spanish.

Mr. Obama’s retaliatory ad, also in Spanish, was just as fraudulent. It slimed Mr. McCain as a friend and full-bore ally of restrictionists like Rush Limbaugh, even though Mr. Limbaugh has long attacked Mr. McCain’s immigration moderation. It quotes Mr. Limbaugh as calling all Mexicans stupid and ordering them to “shut your mouth or get out,” which he never did.

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Meanwhile, the Bush administration keeps raiding factories and farms, terrorizing immigrant families while exposing horrific accounts of workplace abuses. Children toil in slaughterhouses; detainees languish in federal lockups, dying without decent medical care. Day laborers are harassed and robbed of wages. An ineffective border fence is behind schedule and millions over budget. Local enforcers drag citizens and legal residents into their nets, to the cheers of the Minutemen.

Both candidates once espoused smart, thoughtful positions for fixing the problem. But Mr. McCain is shuffling in step with his restrictionist party. Mr. Obama gave immigration one brief mention at the Democratic convention, in a litany of big-trouble issues, like abortion, guns and same-sex marriage, on which he seemed to say that the best Americans could hope for are small compromises and to agree to disagree.

It is time that we demanded a real debate on all of the issues, not just immigration. America is tired of the lies and tired of the smear ads. We want to hear about the issues.

As Frank Sherry from America's Voice said:

[We] offer this challenge to both candidates: Be honest with us. Use the time remaining in your campaigns and the upcoming Presidential debates to tell us your plan for immigration reform. How will you design it, how will you pass it into law, and how will you implement it, so that we can once again be both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws?

We'll be watching.