McCain Still the Same on Immigration Reform!

McCain Still the Same on Immigration Reform! John Hawkins, who initially supported Duncan Hunter for president and came to nominally support John McCain after exhausting all other possible Republican choices, has now announced the withdrawal of his support.

Why? “John McCain is a liar. He’s a man without honor, without integrity …” That seems rather harsh. What happened to give him that idea? Well, McCain reiterated his stance on immigration reform yesterday afternoon.

In yet another sign of his pivoting toward the general election, Senator John McCain said at a roundtable with business leaders here today that comprehensive immigration reform should be a top priority for the next president.


Mr. McCain largely stopped talking about the issue and repeatedly invoked a mantra that he had gotten the message from voters that the borders needed to be secured first, before any solution for the illegal immigrants already here is addressed.


After several of the business leaders complained about the difficulty in obtaining temporary H1B visas for scientists and engineers, something the Senate immigration bill was supposed to address, Mr. McCain expressed regret the measure did not pass, calling it a personal “failure,” as well as one by the federal government.


He added: “I believe we have to secure our borders, and I think most Americans agree with that, because it’s a matter of national security. But we must enact comprehensive immigration reform. We must make it a top agenda item if we don’t do it before, and we probably won’t, a little straight talk, as of January 2009.”


Later, Mr. McCain took up the topic again, saying the problem of what to do with illegal immigrants already here needs to be solved, saying “they are also God’s children, and we have to do it in a human and compassionate fashion,” which drew applause from his audience.

Now, having paid attention to McCain over the last several months, including participating in several blogger conference calls with the senator, none of this comes as news to me. Hawkins, however, is incensed.

McCain claimed that he had changed his tune. Yes, he still supported amnesty, but he said he had heard the message that the American people were sending him and that he had been convinced that we needed security first, before we pursued an amnesty. […] McCain has said, again and again, that he no longer supports comprehensive immigration reform. To the contrary, he has been saying that we need security first and then — and only then — could we consider moving forward with an amnesty.

But that’s what he said yesterday, too. “Security first” was always about tactics, not strategy. The idea was that you had to mollify the “They’re violating our laws!” constituency before moving ahead and fixing the whole system.

Indeed, McCain’s campaign said as much to Hawkins in a post-conference call email last month.

As the recent immigration debate demonstrated, Americans have little trust that their government will honor a pledge to do the things necessary to make our border secure. As president, I will honor that pledge by securing the border, thus strengthening our national security. I will also require that, among other things, border-state governors certify that the border is secure before proceeding to other reform measures. However, I also believe that our immigration system must recognize that America will always be that “shining city upon a hill,” a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism. Once we achieve border security, we must ensure that we approach our remaining immigration challenges with constructive dialogue and solutions that reflect a compassionate approach and the needs of our economy.

McCain is not feeling his way around on this one. He’s represented a border state in the Senate for 31 years and has been a passionate leader on this issue. Why would anyone think he’d turned 180 degrees in the middle of a presidential run? For that matter, why would they want to trust the leadership of their country to someone who had?

Instead, he took his beating on the issue like a man, announced that he’d learned that he’s not going to get his way without addressing the security issue first, but reiterated that he thinks we need a comprehensive, humanitarian approach to the problem.

Then again, these are the same people who were shocked and angered to find out that George W. Bush, who went around speaking Spanish during his first presidential run and proclaimed that “immigration is not a problem to be solved, but the sign of a successful nation” and that “While he is strongly opposed to illegal immigration, he believes more should be done to welcome legal immigrants” was suddenly a traitor to his country when he sought to actually enact that agenda.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Campaign 2008, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I hope this comment thread doesn’t degenerate into another tedious repetitive combat zone between groups taking irreconcilable and equally unrealistic positions on the subject of immigration but I don’t see how it can be avoided.

    This ties into an observation you made in a post a little down below, James. It’s not just the social conservatives who’ve already lost the battle (actually the social conservatives lost the battle 25 years ago–name a major piece of socially conservative legislation put in place under Reagan) but the culture warriors, generally.

    I think that McCain’s position on this issue (as on quite some number) is a pragmatic one. Ideologues don’t like pragmatic policies.

  2. Michael says:

    I hope this comment thread doesn’t degenerate into another tedious repetitive combat zone between groups taking irreconcilable and equally unrealistic positions on the subject of immigration but I don’t see how it can be avoided.

    You mean you aren’t amused by people who will lambaste Mexicans for being morally, genetically and socially inferior to ourselves, but then claim to only be against illegal immigrants?

  3. TLB says:

    Ideologues don’t like pragmatic policies.

    Neither do those who are completely corrupt. In fact, a while back they pushed a crooked, unworkable scheme that would have, for instance, taken years to legalize everyone or would have resulted in people – including terrorists and criminals – just being waved through the system. And, their crooked scheme would have given even more power inside the U.S. to the far-left and foreign governments.

    I have to agree with Dave Schuler: simply enforcing our current laws is the best, most pragmatic option.

  4. Diane C. Russell says:

    John McCain probably is a pragmatist. And saying “John McCain is a liar. He’s a man without honor, without integrity …” may be harsh.

    Unfortunately it is true. McCain is a liar! Year after year he has made a solemn promise to defend the Constitution from its enemies. Yet he broke that promise and ignored the First Amendment when he sponsored legislation abridging freedom speech. And he has supported other legislation that appears to be in violation of his oath.

    You can argue that Hawkins’ judgment is harsh, but can you reasonably refute its truth?

    Just because the courts let him get away without does not change the fact that he lied when he promised to make no law abridging freedom of speech.

    Most people who swear oaths and then break them are called liars and perjurers. Unfortunately, politicians who do so are congratulated as pragmatists.

    Calling McCain a pragmatist does not change the fact that he is a liar, nor does it restore his honor or integrity. Pragmatism is just a code word used to try to obfuscate or excuse lies and dishonor.

    Given McCain’s history, I don’t see any reason to believe anything he says, certainly not any campaign promises, nor any oath he would take as President. Nor do I trust him to be bound by the laws of the country or by Constitutional limits on his use of power.

    You can argue that Hawkins’ judgment of McCain is harsh, but can you reasonable refute the truth of that judgment?

  5. James Joyner says:


    I disagree with McCain on campaign finance but that doesn’t make him a liar. Indeed, the Supreme Court, who gets to decide these things, ruled that McCain-Feingold did not violate the 1st Amendment. I happen to disagree with them on that but, again, that doesn’t make them liars.

  6. DL says:

    John Mccain lacks one serious component of character -loyalty! He is the poster child for being disloyal – even brutus would admire his backstabbing!

    I’m not able to compromise any more – I would vote for Pogo though as he’s seems to be the most astute philosopher around -the enemy “my friends” is us!

  7. capital L says:

    “even brutus would admire his backstabbing!”

    Brutus literally stabbed Caesar. Literally. Your rhetoric is ridiculous.

  8. “even brutus would admire his backstabbing!”

    Brutus literally stabbed Caesar. Literally. Your rhetoric is ridiculous.

    True friends stab you in the front.



  9. Floyd says:

    “”Ideologues don’t like pragmatic policies.””

    We fought a revolution against pragmatic sanction, and now we are expected to embrace it?
    Pragmatism today rarely manifests itself in forms other than cowardice.

  10. durvel post says:

    well ,you can argue all you want to I reckon . The fact is we already had immigration reform in 1980’s . SO we all know it don’t work . We either enforce all laws or non of them ,take yore pick .

  11. DfD (Democrats for Deportation) says:

    What’s harsh is Mexican Illegal Aliens KILLING Americans, on American soil, every day with immunity….that’s harsh. What else is harsh is the absence of representation for the American taxpayer in this Illegal Alien Crisis!!!

  12. levotb says:

    Right on, DfD!! At least 25 Americans are killed or murdered (same thing–they’re dead) by illegals. If Rep. Steve King says it’s so, it’s so!

    This Schuler fellow sounds like a shill for McCain. ALL pols are liars. However, the ones who really hurt Americans the most are those who allowed this Invasion to occur. One Freeper I was arguing with today stated that “The Invasion started under Clinton!” He had apparently not been born in 1986, the year that Reagan signed that tragic piece of legislation called Simpson-Mazolli, the Amnesty that brought in another 30 million illegals. They’re still breaking into the U.S. at the rate of 5,000 to 10,000 per day. Think about it–our country IN PERIL!!

    The only man running who will stop the Invasion is Rev. Chuck Baldwin of The Constitution Party.

  13. Ben says:

    McCain keeps changing his story, depending on what group he happens to be talking too, so I know he can’t be trusted. His loyalty lies with big business, and illegal alien criminals. 2 points make this very apparent. He has hired Juan Hernandez, as his “Hispanic Advisor.” A man who has been the mouthpeice for the corrupt mexican government, and a know “reconquista.” And the fact that he has accepted an invitation to speak in front of The National Council of La Raza, a known hate group. Their motto “for the race everything, for those outside the race, nothing.” The main thing that needs to be attained is a anti-illegal immigration congress, until we can get a better pick for president, than the nitwits, currently available!

  14. Bobby says:

    common folks, for John, “Americans woundn’t pick lettuce for fifty dollars an hour”, McCain, corruption is nothing new. Wasn’t he one of the “Keating Five” Senators in that 1980’s scandal. Isn’t he and wife’s business interests tied closely to Mexico? Won’t he stand to do well financially if the U.S. merges with Mexico, that shining example corruption? When will people drop their delusions? Write in Congressman Dr. Ron Paul or vote for Hillary if you must, McCain deserves nothing but NO thanks from the American citizenry. He’s the best politician money can buy, as the saying goes.

  15. Jimi says:

    At least we know what we have to chose from, 3 open borders candidates. I believe if the Demo gets the knod the repubs will close the wagons into a circle to block any legislation. If Mc Amnesty get elected, he may try to brow beat the repubs into supporting his amnesty, that also will not work as GWB proved, even with both houses he got nada. The folks just won’t allow it. Mc Amnesty has so many medical issues he’s sure to be a 1 termer. Melanoma has a way of taking folks down even when they think they’ve beat it. Best bet is a strong VP candidate like Romney as he’s sure to be ready when Mc Amnesty succumbs. That will determine whether I can vote for McAmnesty or go 3rd party.

  16. Brittanicus says:

    Increasingly more and more citizens are becoming aware of one of the biggest travesties of our laws. McCain, Obama and even Hillary are liable to sign into law a massive illegal immigration AMNESTY. If With the two Democrats, you know where they stand and are huge panderers, is what they hope is a mass movement towards their party, by illegal foreign nationals. Sen.McCain is a ‘dark horse’ and his, platform on the illegal immigration occupation, is not clear. He certainly jumps back and forward on this bombshell, of a subject. He lost much party popularity, when he entertained Senator Ted Kennedy so-called Comprehensive Reform bill; it’s alias being mas AMNESTY. It’s cost to US taxpayers, would have brought bankruptcy to every community in this nation. Read the costs annually (

    Perhaps Mr.Ted Kennedy will go into retirement, and stop trying to relieve Americans of their sovereignty? Kennedy was the leader in the 12 to 30 million Comprehensive Reform immigration package, that would have placed a massive burden on all citizens.

    If Democratic House madam Nancy Pelosi and Sen.Ultra liberal Ted Kennedy, Sen Feinstein and their thrall are trying to derail the enforcement illegal immigration bill, SAVE ACT (H.R.4088), this includes the border fence. It obviously must be of paramount excellence for THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER?

    Just as a footnote:


    Read how Arizona was suffering from the illegal immigration, is now gaining economic prosperity? Less traffic on the highways is one great example! Even Georgia, Oklahoma, Rhode Island are showing signs of economic revitalization? Missouri has just joined these free-thinking states, who are obviously thinking of taxpayers and not the parasite employers. /striking-changes-in-arizona-as-illegal-immigrants -flee-the-state/

    YOU DECIDE YOUR FUTURE, not tainted Democrats and Republicans. Call and demand the SAVE ACT (H.R.4088) before the new president steps into office. (2022243121)

  17. “Bringing illegal aliens out of the shadows” only DECREASES security and threatens us all. Legalization programs do NOT increase security.


    The 1986 amnesty LED TO THE 1993 WTC ATTACK! Two illegal alien taxicab drivers applied for the amnesty; one received it and “came out of the shadows” and used his new status to travel to and from the Middle East to get terrorist training (travel he would not have been able to do WITHOUT the amnesty). He used this training to blow up the WTC in ’93, a precursor to the 9/11 attack.

    The other illegal alien taxicab driver was denied the amnesty, but guess what: he was never deported and ALSO helped with the attack!

    The net result of “legalization” is an increase in terrorism. It provides NO increase in security.


    “The Open Door: How Militant Islamic Terrorists Entered and Remained in the United States, 1993-2001”

    “Is Obama Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

  18. G.A.Phillips says:

    Right on, DfD!! At least 25 Americans are killed or murdered (same thing–they’re dead) by illegals. If Rep. Steve King says it’s so, it’s so!

    what about the drugs that a lot of those dudes bring with them not to mention diseases, how many has that killed.

  19. Al says:

    They are killing our citizens at an alarming rate, and NOTHING is being done to STOP it.

    The VERY instant they step foot on U.S. soil outside of proper entry – they ARE criminals. title=8&sec=1325

    AND remain CRIMINALS until they leave!

    Federal Laws being violated: It’s one thing to mention that ‘laws’ are being broken, it’s quite another to actually READ them.

    1907 Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324(a) Offenses (harboring or aiding and abetting)

    1911 8 U.S.C. § 1325 — Unlawful Entry, Failure to Depart, Fleeing Immigration Checkpoints, Marriage Fraud, Commercial Enterprise Fraud

    1908 Unlawful Employment of Aliens — Criminal Penalties

    1918 Arrest of Illegal Aliens by State and Local Officers

    Facts provided by Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin of Atlanta’s Violent Crimes Institute:

    • Illegal aliens murder 12 people every day or 4,380 every year. 21,900 since 9/11..
    • Illegal aliens who are driving under the influence kill 13 people every day or 4,745 per year. 23,725 since 9/11.
    • Illegal aliens molest 8 children every day. That’s 2,920 every year.

    There is TONS more information available, just not enough space to share.

  20. Raymond L Bellah says:

    It will make no difference who you vote for when it comes to the illegal aliens and amnesty., or any other issue. You can vote Blue, or you can vote Red, it will come out Purple.
    The Democratic Party was given the majority in the House in the last election and we assumed that they would oppose the criminal administration that has hijacked our country. What has changed? The only solution to all of our problems is to get rid of the people that created them, replace everyone in an elected office.

    I have written to my representatives and get back such dribble as this:
    blah, blah, blah,

    At this time, however, I believe that impeachment proceedings against President Bush will only divide the country even further, frustrating our hopes for a meaningful change in direction, while having little chance of success.

    I have been deeply disappointed by many of this Administration’s actions and have been outspoken in those instances. Nevertheless, given the challenges our country faces I believe that we need to focus on constructive and cooperative steps that would lead us in the right direction.
    My reply to said dribble:

    Divide us further???? How much more of a division do you consider it will need to make an impeachment possible? It is obvious to a blind man that crimes have been committed and are committed daily in our name. Elections are stolen and the Supreme Court allows the theft. We no longer have a “Government of by and for the people.” We have been hijacked by Corporate power who are able to buy who and what they want. And apparently they have bought you as well.

    “focus on constructive and cooperative steps that would lead us in the right direction” ????

    To be over ridden by a “Signing statement”? No, No, don’t even go there. That is nothing more than hollow words that mean absolutely nothing now.

    President Nixon faced impeachment for his “Plumbers” activities, President Clinton faced impeachment for his sexual indeiscretions, both of which are comparable to jaywalking when held to the Crimes against mankind that you and other members of Congress ignore that have been committed by this administration.

    Considering George W Bush’s failure to abide by his oath of office to “Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic” and:
    Since you do not concern yourself with the future of our country I have finally reached the point where I do not consider you as being a representative of the people. I will no longer address you as my representative and will from this time forward oppose you and others with similar positions concerning impeachment against the criminal administration that you are afraid of confronting.

    I now consider you and others with similar attitudes as co-conspirators with George W Bush and his criminal cronies and will actively pursue and assist future efforts to indict any and all involved in these criminal acts.

  21. Al says:

    Raymond, I agree!

    There’s not a drop of spits difference between parties right now. We ARE being sold out by BOTH. I still write my so called ‘elected officials‘, but I tell them to not bother responding because I no longer read their responses. It’s All drivel…

  22. Michael says:

    I feel sorry for your representatives.

  23. Raymond L Bellah says:

    I feel nothing but contempt for them. They have sold us out and are doing so willingly.

    They have allowed our Constitutional Rights to be stripped away because they consider themselves to be above the laws.

  24. Michael says:

    I feel nothing but contempt for them. They have sold us out and are doing so willingly.

    They have allowed our Constitutional Rights to be stripped away because they consider themselves to be above the laws.

    So get off your lazy ass and run for office yourself. Then you’ll get to see just how many people disagree with you.

  25. Raymond L Bellah says:

    I have met the people that disagree with me, both of them.