According to an article on Boston.com: “Last fall, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama was eager to take a stand when asked in a series of debates whether illegal immigrants should be able to apply for drivers’ licenses. But Thursday night, they were much less bashful when the issue of immigration came up: Clinton said she would stop federal raids against undocumented workers, consider halting the construction of a border fence, and during her first 100 days as president, pursue a legalization plan for illegal immigrants.”
When the race began, the anti-immigration and anti-undocumented (“antis”) Republicans vowing for the nomination were stepping all over themselves to see which candidate could be the most punitive while the Democrats were strategically remaining silent on the issue. The antis abandoned the race like flies and left the only pro-immigration candidate standing, John McCain.
Republicans are now in a precarious position on the issue because far-right conservatives support an “anti” stance on immigration but McCain not only supported but co-sponsored Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the Senate. He is now attempting to back pedal and say he’s “heard the American people” and will “secure the borders first.” Both Obama and Clinton now unabashedly support earned legalization for the millions of undocumented currently in the US.
It will be tricky for McCain to debate either of them on immigration. The truth is that despite talk-radio and cable TV fanatics, most Americans support offering a path to earned legalization for those who are in the US without authorization. McCain himself supported, and continues to support a legalization program – but now with the caveat “after the borders are secure”.
Moreover, courting Latino voters will require the candidates treating their undocumented friends and family members with respect and not scapegoating them for political gain.