Ed O’Keefe
The Trail
September 15, 2008

John McCain’s most recent en Español advertising appeal.

The McCain campaign has started airing a new Spanish-language television commercial in the battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico that lays the failure of comprehensive immigration reform at the feet of Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues — despite the fact that Obama supported the bipartisan John McCain-Edward Kennedy efforts to enact such reforms and voted for their final proposal last year.

That’s got Obama surrogates and leaders of some Hispanic groups raising questions similar to those that have greeted McCain’s English language spots, which have had their accuracy challenged by a number of media and independent group observers.

“Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants,” the ad’s announcer says in Spanish in the spot, released Friday. “But are they? The press reports that their efforts were ‘poison pills’ that made immigration reform fail. The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. No reform. Is that being on our side? Obama and his Congressional allies: Ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.”

In truth, Obama and many other Democrats publicly supported the efforts to enact immigration reforms started by Sens. McCain and Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 2005. Obama voted for last year’s final bipartisan proposals, but faced criticism for sponsoring changes to a temporary worker program that later failed, and Senate colleagues described him as “notably absent” during negotiations.

Today, Obama says he backs an approach that “protects our security, bolsters our economy, and preserves America’s tradition as a nation of immigrants who are welcomed as long as they work hard and play by the rules” — and he recently told a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gathering, “I think it’s time for a president who won’t walk away from comprehensive immigration reform when it becomes politically unpopular.”

Obama’s supporters had harsh words for the McCain spot. “To say that Barack Obama and Senate Democrats blocked the bill that Republicans filibustered is hypocritical and not true. John McCain has lost his credibility when it comes to the immigration issue,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement released by the Obama campaign Friday.

“The man who said he would vote against his own immigration bill during the Republican presidential debates, who was unwilling to stand up to his own party when they approved an anti-immigrant platform, cannot attack Democrats on immigration in Spanish, while pandering to the extreme right Tancredo wing of the Republican Party in English.”

Some Hispanic groups agree with Menendez.

“The Latino community has been watching this issue very closely,” says Cecilia Muñoz, a senior vice president with National Council of La Raza who notes that immigration legislation failed because a majority of Republican senators voted against the measures.


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