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McCain Ad Hits Obama on Immigration « The Washington Independent

In a new Spanish-language TV ad, the McCain campaign attempts to lay the collapse of comprehensive immigration reform negotiations at the feet of Sen. Barack Obama and “his congressional allies.”

According to the campaign, the ad will air in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.

PRODUCTION NOTES: The ad, titled “Which Side Are They On?” is in Spanish, but the campaign provided an English translation of the script. An announcer says, “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.”

Unfortunately, the announcer does not elaborate on what specific efforts “made immigration reform fail.” The ad doesn’t include any citations, so it’s basically making a vague statement and offering nothing to back it up.

However, a McCain campaign press release provides some background information, revealing that the ad is re-treading ground that Politifact covered in July. The fact-checking Website run by the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times and Congressional Quarterly found there is some truth to Sen. John McCain’s previous statements that an amendment supported by many Democrats, including Obama, helped derail negotiations in which McCain was a central figure. But Politifact was more nuanced in assigning too much responsibility to Obama himself.

[T]he Senate took up a politically fragile compromise package whose fate could have been threatened by any number of amendments. On June 6, Obama took aim at one component of the citizenship provisions, proposing to terminate after five years a new merit-based system for awarding green cards that confer permanent resident status. The merit-based system would have apportioned green cards based on the nation’s economic needs and moved away from the existing system, which rewards family ties.

A coalition of 40 immigrant rights groups, including La Raza, endorsed Obama’s measure, saying the new system would discriminate in favor of immigrants with higher educations and training in specialty occupations. However, the Senate rejected Obama’s amendment, 42-55.

Hours later, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D., successfully offered an amendment to terminate the temporary worker program after five years. Dorgan contended the program would have the effect of bringing cheap labor in through the back door and squeezing out American workers. In spite of pleas from Kennedy, who said Congress should give the program a chance to work, the Senate adopted the amendment in a 49-48 vote, with Obama siding with Dorgan…

Angela Kelley, director of the Immigration Policy Center in Washington, said Obama’s amendment put Senate Democrats in a particularly tough bind, because it would have scrapped a Bush administration points-based system of awarding green cards based on family ties. Yet adopting it would have greatly complicated prospects for the plan co-authored by Kennedy, one of the party’s icons.

“There’s no black or white answer on it,” Kelley said. “If you want to say Obama was offering that kind of an amendment (poison pill), the Republicans would say, sure, because they had a lot of control in what got to the heart of the bill. If you also want to say Obama wanted a sober debate about what made sense for the immigration bill, he did that, too. It was like an optical illusion, the same picture seen two ways.”

Kelley said Dorgan’s amendment was bitterly opposed by business interests and went to the heart of the bipartisan plan. “They described the Dorgan amendment as a poison pill at that time,” she said.

It’s a fact that Obama’s actions came at a critical point in the immigration debate and threatened a fragile political compromise. And he supported Dorgan’s amendment, which was considered the poison pill McCain describes.

But it’s not accurate to describe Obama’s amendment in the same terms. It addressed what many experts viewed as a central component of any viable immigration reform package.

Furthermore, as Politico’s Jonathan Martin notes, the ad makes no mention of intense opposition within the Republican Party, that played no small role in the breakdown.

Unsaid in the ad is that there was also a tidal wave of opposition to “amnesty” from the grass-roots of McCain’s own party that scared away many Republican senators from supporting the bill. It was this same revolt that prompted McCain to significantly alter his language on the topic in the GOP primary. Whenever the topic came up on the campaign trail, he would say: “I got the message.” Which meant that he understood many Americans, notably those in his own party, wanted to secure the border first (if not alone).

It is also worth noting that McCain has since said that today he would not vote for the immigration bill he co-authored. It’s refreshing to see a McCain campaign ad that at least mentions an issue, but unfortunately, this spot doesn’t paint an accurate picture.

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