McCain Talks Border Security to Latinos

By Fred Lucas | July 8, 2008 | 6:57 PM EDT

Washington ( - Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reminded a receptive Hispanic crowd at the League of United Latin American Citizens convention on Tuesday that he represents a state where Spanish was spoken before English, but he added that border security would have to come before other reforms.
Addressing a Latino audience for the second time in as many weeks, McCain explained that comprehensive immigration reform would be a high priority in his administration.
Speaking to the 79th Annual LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) Convention in Washington, D.C., McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, said his policy will “apprehend those who enter illegally to commit crime, and deal practically and humanely with those who came here as my ancestors did for a better and safer life for their families.”
“Many Americans, with good cause, didn’t believe us when we said we would secure our borders,” McCain said. “We must prove to them we will secure our borders first while respecting the dignity and rights of legal citizens of the United States.”
The Latino vote is the fastest growing voting bloc in the United States, and it is key for both McCain and his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), to attract in the race for the White House.
The issue of immigration reform has been difficult for McCain, however, who angered many conservatives last year by supporting legislation that included a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, along with increased enforcement. The bill was supported by President Bush and congressional Democrats.
After the legislation failed, McCain said the federal government must prove it will enforce the borders before the public will support a “comprehensive” approach.
McCain spoke briefly about his service in the Vietnam War and spoke of the Vietnam Memorial with names such as Rodriguez, Hernandez and Lopez that “so sadly adorn it.” McCain said he also met Hispanic soldiers serving in Iraq, willing to protect their country though without the full rights of citizenship.
“To love your country, as I discovered in Vietnam, is to love your countrymen,” McCain said in reference to Hispanic veterans. “Those men are my brothers and sisters, my fellow Americans. As a fellow citizen and as your president, I will never do anything to dishonor our obligations to them.”
McCain also told the audience, to rousing applause, that “the civil rights challenge of our time is education. We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition. ...  We need to empower parents with choice.”
He did not mention Obama’s name other than to say the presumed Democratic candidate had declined his offer to appear together at a town hall forum in front of the LULAC audience. (Obama spoke later on Tuesday to LULAC.) However, McCain did talk about the economy and how damaging a tax increase could be in his view.
Obama, if elected, has said he wants to let the Bush tax cuts on individuals and businesses expire. McCain said he wants to make them permanent.
“It would be a terrible mistake to raise taxes during an economic downtown,” McCain said. “When you raise taxes in a bad economy, you are eliminating jobs.”
He also said he rejects economic isolationism, pointing out that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States.
“We need to open those markets, not close them,” McCain said. “We can compete and win as we always have, or be left behind.”