Here’s the whole article.
Immigration comes to fore for McCain, Obama
July 9, 2008
By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News email@example.com
WASHINGTON—After months of treading softly on immigration, Barack Obama put the issue center stage Tuesday when he accused John McCain of setting aside years of support for a guest-worker program to appease conservatives and further his presidential ambition.
The attack, delivered to a major Hispanic group, served the dual purpose of broadening Mr. Obama’s appeal to a critical segment of the electorate, while chipping away at his rival’s image as a maverick and reformer.
“He used to buck his party on immigration … but when he started running for his party’s nomination, he abandoned his courageous stance,” Mr. Obama told the League of United Latin American Citizens. “We need a president who isn’t going to walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular.”
Both candidates have walked a tightrope on immigration reform. The Arizona senator led a years-long push for new rules, cobbling together a package that included more border security and workplace enforcement with a guest-worker program and giving 12 million or so immigrants the chance to gain legal status.
But a backlash from conservatives and two failures in Congress left him chastened. In the GOP primaries, he vowed to put security first before trying again for sweeping reforms—a stance he reiterated Tuesday at the LULAC convention a few hours before Mr. Obama spoke.
“I and many other colleagues twice attempted to pass comprehensive immigration legislation,” Mr. McCain said, adding that many Americans were skeptical after previous reforms failed to stem illegal immigration.
“We must prove to them that we can and will secure our borders first … But we must not make the mistake of thinking that our responsibility to meet this challenge will end with that accomplishment.”
Hispanic advocates want a comprehensive package that offers a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama explicitly promised to enact such a measure by the end of his first term as president. Mr. McCain was more circumspect and got a less enthusiastic reception as a result.
In private, though, he assured LULAC leaders that his goals haven’t changed, according to president Rosa Rosales of San Antonio. She said he also voiced support for the Dream Act—which would let children of illegal immigrants earn citizenship by attending college or serving in the military. And she said “he is for legalization,” a stance that would cost him some Republican support if he emphasized it.
“He said, “We’re gridlocked. I will do what I can, but I cannot change [anything] if the votes are not there,” ” Ms. Rosales said.
It’s the second time in 10 days that Mr. McCain has sent mixed signals. He told the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials that he would stick by his security-first pledge, even as he vowed that reform remained his “top priority yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
That irritated Hispanic advocates and anti-illegal-immigrant forces alike and opened him to allegations of pandering.
“Barack Obama has never wavered on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Tuesday’s crowd as he introduced Mr. Obama.
In January, Mr. McCain told Republicans that he would no longer vote for his own legislation, co-authored with Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a McCain backer, defended the senator in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
“He does not oppose the legislation,” he simply emphasizes security over the other elements, Mr. Diaz-Balart said. He also accused Mr. Obama of inflating his role in the reform package when he did little beyond lend his name to the cause.
The intensity of Tuesday’s eruption over immigration policy reflected the sensitivity of the issue and the importance of the fast-growing Hispanic electorate, especially in key battlegrounds—New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Florida and even Mr. McCain’s home state, Arizona.
Mr. Obama is playing catch-up with Hispanics after losing most of the bloc to Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries.
“He was very general. Very surface. But he touched on sensitive buttons we need touched,” Art Hernandez, a mortgage consultant from California, said after the Obama speech.
Luis Hernandez of Frisco, chairman of a group of Hispanic McDonald’s restaurant owners, called immigration the overriding issue for many Hispanic voters and said Mr. McCain offered a strong enough signal Tuesday that he’ll keep pushing the issue.
“I think he’ll keep his word. McCain has a very good plan,” he said.