McCain-Palin attacks fall flat with Latinos

The Republican attack machine has launched a multifaceted offensive to falsely accuse Democrat Barak Obama of being anti-immigrant. In Spanish-language ads directed at Latino voters in the battleground states of Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, John McCain wrongly claims Obama blocked the path to legalization. At the same time McCain and the GOP are saying to their far-right base (in English) that Obama and the Democrats in general are “soft” on “illegal immigration.”

The Spanish ads, which also appeared in the swing state of Virginia which has a growing Latino population, blame Obama and colleagues in the Senate for “poison pill” amendments to the comprehensive immigration bill that resulted in its defeat, meaning, the ads say, “no path to citizenship, no secure borders and no reform.”

On July 14 at the National Council of La Raza, when pressed by audience questions on having backed off support for legalization in favor of “enforcement first,” McCain responded accusing Obama and labor of killing comprehensive reform in 2007.

In reality, Obama voted for the reforms in 2006 and 2007. He did support an amendment to end guest worker provisions after five years. Guest worker programs are used by corporations to drive wages down and pit worker against worker. Even so, Obama was joined by Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida in that vote. In limiting guest worker programs, Obama was trying to make the bill more worker- and family-friendly. The bill was eventually killed by Republican opposition.

Many say McCain has shifted from his “moderate” approach to immigration, caving in to the far-right wing of the GOP. His running mate, Sarah Palin, is even more anti-immigrant than McCain, they charge.

Speaking at a Sept. 10 meeting of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Obama reinforced his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform with a legalization component. “This election is about the 12 million people living in the shadows, the communities taking immigration enforcement into their own hands,” he said. “They are counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves and rise above the fear, and rise above the demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

As the McCain ads hit the airwaves, the anti-immigrant group Fair American Immigration Reform (FAIR) started a two-day “Put their feet to the fire” lobby effort on Capitol Hill featuring right-wing talk show personalities. On Sept. 11 Lou Dobbs hosted a live telecast in support of FAIR and the Republican platform, which says immigration is primarily a “national security issue,” implying that immigrants are terrorists.

In addition, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids at workplaces across the nation have escalated, adding to an atmosphere that serves the Republican agenda.

America’s Voice, a coalition that supports comprehensive, humanitarian immigration reform, denounced the anti-Obama ads and FAIR’s new campaign at a Sept. 15 press conference. It has bought a full-page ad in the Washington Post exposing FAIR’s extremist background, links and policies.

John Trasvina of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund told the press the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda had urged McCain to fight the GOP’s anti-immigrant planks in its platform. They got no response, he said, and the platform passed the GOP convention unanimously. Trasvina said the GOP platform had language that would “split families,” exclude undocumented taxpayers from the 2010 Census and close the door on access to higher education for children who do not have a Social Security number.