Tag: John McCain

immigration reform

Commentary: Comparing Immigration Reform Proposals

This week, President Obama and the a bi-partisan group of senators offered competing plans for immigration reform. We give you a side by side comparison in a new infographic.

After a Campaign That Largely Ignored Them, Immigrant Voters Still Expect Results

Diego Graglia

Diego Graglia, blog editor

When it comes to politics, not all immigrants are created equal. While the 2008 presidential campaign saw intense efforts by both major candidates to seduce Hispanic voters, other ethnic groups did not receive comparable levels of attention.

But one thing foreign-born voters of all origins have in common is that they did not see the deep discussion many of them expected about what is going to happen to U.S. immigration laws under the next administration.

Immigration reform was more a political frisbee than a political football: rather than being tossed around by the campaigns, it sort of hovered over public discourse, dipping to ground level only on occasion. Most of the references to it came in front of immigrant audiences, especially in candidate interviews and commercials on Spanish-language media.

Hispanics received a lot of attention during this fall campaign because of their large numbers in four states once labeled battlegrounds: Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico. Now, the three western states are considered to be leaning towards Barack Obama — and the Democratic candidate held a slight lead in most of the polls conducted in Florida in October. This is in no small part due to the high levels of support Obama has attracted among Hispanics in those states.

While those states saw a deluge of advertising in Spanish, Latinos in other regions were not catered to in such an intense manner. Most Hispanics in the U.S. live in states considered safe for one party or the other –New York and California on the Democratic side, Texas in the Republican column.

Latinos in non-battleground states did not miss much.


Obama, McCain and Joe The Plumber: Attack and Defense In The Last Presidential Debate

Barack Obama, John McCain – and Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher – took center stage at Hofstra University on Long Island last night, making the final presidential debate in this campaign the best of the general election season. Finally, the much-anticipated “YouTube moments” arrived, and both campaigns can claim to have scored points. Whether voters make up their minds based on debate scorecards is another matter.

McCain came out on the offense early, and as boxing-minded commentators will probably say, he landed a few jabs.

The Republican’s change of attitude was clear from the start. He purposely looked at his rival across the table and addressed him directly through the night. Among his early good moments was his much-awaited chance to differentiate himself from President George W. Bush. After Obama resorted to his usual “history lesson” and mentioned the current administration had greatly increased the national deficit, McCain quickly retorted, “If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I’m going to give a new direction to this economy and this country.”

Obama seemed a bit taken aback by McCain’s aggressive start, but sticking to his usual lines and playing a conservative defense game, he seemed to avoid committing any serious mistakes.

Then came Joe — a name that will probably stay in our Google and YouTube searches for a while. By one count, he got at least thirteen mentions in the first part of the debate. Soon enough, a Twitter user named PlumberJoe had been created. [Here’s a video of Joe with Obama and on the phone with Fox News.]

McCain brought up Joe, an Ohio plumber that had met Obama a few days ago.

Barack Obama answering a question from Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher
in Holland, Ohio last Sunday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong.)

According to McCain, Joe -no relation to Joe Sixpack- would fall into a higher tax bracket under his rival’s proposals. The Republican promised to keep the plumber’s taxes low and provide him with affordable health care for him and his employees. McCain also said Obama would take Joe’s money to “spread the wealth around,” which he deemed “class warfare.”

Those early attacks seem to fluster the usually-cool Democratic candidate, but he came back at McCain on the “Joe” situation later on. After McCain repeated his standard line about the Democrat’s plan to fine companies which don’t provide health coverage to their employees, Obama looked at the camera and told Joe: “Here’s your fine: zero,” going on to explain that his plan exempts small businesses.

McCain looked stunned for a few seconds after that, and responded “Hey Joe, you’re rich, congratulations.” (more…)

Who Lost the Second Presidential Debate?

Answer: Immigrants and anyone interested in fixing the nation’s immigration system.

It’s now clear that immigration has replaced Social Security as the “third rail of American politics.” Touch it and you’re dead. The words “immigration” and “immigrants” were never mentioned in Tuesday night’s debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The candidates and their campaigns are maintaining a perfect record of not addressing this subject during the debates. But, as we have reported elsewhere, both campaigns have been running Spanish-language TV ads aimed at Latino voters that criticize and distort each other’s record on immigration reform.

While the candidates’ silence on this subject was notable, what was truly striking was that none of the questions posed by voters and moderator Tom Brokaw dealt with immigration. NBC’s Brokaw began the town hall-style debate by saying that “tens of thousands” of questions had been submitted by people across the country. It’s hard to believe that none of those questions dealt with the candidates’ proposals for dealing with the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the US. It’s only a guess, but Brokaw and the team who culled the submitted queries, must have thought that immigration isn’t important enough for even one debate question.

So Obama and McCain got off the hook, and tens of millions of immigrants –both legal and undocumented – along with their children, neighbors and, yes, their employers and co-workers are still waiting to hear the two candidates compare and contrast their views on immigration reform. This, in an election year when immigrant and ethnic voters may prove pivotal in a number of battleground states.

During the presidential primaries former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney tried to use John McCain’s support for immigration reform as a wedge issue against the Arizona Senator. Romney’s strategy failed. But maybe he was more successful than most people believe. There is now a chill over the presidential campaign when it comes to talking openly about immigrants and immigration. Four weeks before Election Day no one – neither the candidates nor the mainstream media – seems willing to break the ice.

The GOP and African Americans: "We Dropped The Ball," Says a Leading Black Republican

In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Senator John McCain promised that if he’s elected, “we’re going to reach out our hand to any willing patriot, make this government start working for you again, and get this country back on the road to prosperity and peace.” During the fall campaign the outreach may not be quite as sweeping, especially when it comes to African-American voters. In an interview with Feet in Two Worlds, Michael Steele, the Chairman of GOPAC and one of the few African Americans to address the GOP convention, said as far as he knows “there is no effort” by the McCain campaign to counterbalance the surge of support for Barack Obama in the black community.

“The reality of it is, you take ten African Americans, nine and a half of them are going to vote for Barack,” said Steele, the former Lt. Governor of Maryland. “That still doesn’t mean you don’t compete for the vote. You still lay out the cause for looking at John McCain. Because as John McCain himself has said, before the NAACP and the Urban League, ‘When I’m your president you will have a seat at my table.’ Not even Barack is saying that.”

GOPAC is a political action committee created in 1979 whose purpose, according to a statement by Steele on the GOPAC web site, is, “recruiting, training, and equipping candidates across the country to establish and maintain a Republican majority.”

According to Steele, when it comes to cultivating African-American voters and candidates, the Republican Party has, “literally dropped the ball.”

“We need to pick it up and move forward with it,” he said.

Yesterday, The Washington Post reported there were just 36 black delegates among the 2,380 at the Republican convention, the lowest number in at least four decades.

Steele’s assessment comes in an election year when black voters, energized by Obama’s candidacy, have already demonstrated their clout at the polls. Heavy turnout by black voters in the South Carolina Democratic primary gave Obama the edge he needed to beat Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

In July, Mike Baker of the Associated Press wrote, “If Barack Obama’s historic campaign to become the first black president boosts black turnout as drastically as he predicts, he could crack decades of Republican dominance across the South.” Obama has pledged to increase black voter participation by 30 percent this year. If that happens, Baker cites four states that could shift from red to blue in the November election. They include Florida, the mother of all battleground states, Virginia (another important battleground state), Arkansas and Louisiana. In addition, Baker reports that the Obama campaign is focusing on boosting African American voter turnout in six other states -North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Michael Steele maintains that the McCain Campaign is pursuing a “fifty-state strategy” to elect their candidate. But with no pages in the playbook specifically aimed at African-American voters, Republicans may discover they have ceded a critical group of voters to the Democrats in a what many believe will be a very tight election.

Reporter's Notebook: A Russian American Journalist at the Republican Convention

This article was written by Ari Kagan who is in Minnesota to cover the Republican National Convention under a project sponsored by Feet in Two Worlds and the New York Community Media Alliance.

Dr. Solomon Bayevsky, an 85-years-old resident of Menorah Plaza Apartments in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, book writer and Persian culture scholar, knows a few things about war. He was just 19 years old, when he was badly injured during the fierce fighting against the Nazis at Stalingrad in 1943. “We don’t need more wars,” said the immigrant from Mogilev, Belarus. “With John McCain America will start a new war with Iran, and maybe even with China (over Taiwan) or Russia.” Bayevsky, who lost the use of his right arm in the war, added, “we will stay in Iraq much longer than we need. I will vote for Barack Obama because he will finish the Iraq war, will use more tough diplomacy in other conflicts, and because he is young, smart and energetic. I also like the Democratic approach toward immigrants and low-income people.”

Listen to an interview with Dr. Solomon Beyevsky by Feet in Two Worlds executive producer John Rudolph.


Bayevsky’s opinion is not entirely shared by his neighbors, many of them Russian Jewish immigrants who live in this quiet retirement home in a suburb of Minneapolis. Some praised McCain and expressed reservations about Obama’s message of change. But everybody here is ready to vote on September 4 to choose the next president. Most Russian seniors in St. Louis Park receive their information about presidential politics either from Russian-language TV and newspapers or from their children who tend to vote for Republicans.

Listen to an interview with Leonid Kerbel. Mr. Kerbel, 75, immigrated to the US in 1994, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was a tennis coach in the USSR, and still stays in shape by playing tennis. Here he explains to John Rudolph why he plans to vote for John McCain.


Ari Kagan (left) interviews a resident of the Menorah Plaza Apartments in St. Louis Park, Minnesota about the 2008 presidential election.

My visit to the local Russian community was at the end of the first weird day of the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul. The most visible and noisy event of the day was not the convention or appearances by Laura Bush and Cindy McCain who urged delegates to donate money to the Gustav Hurricane relief fund. Instead the biggest media attraction in Minnesota was an anti-war march near the State Capitol. While the main part of this rally (about 8,000 people) was peaceful and predictable, one group of violent self-proclaimed anarchists (about 200 people) behaved and looked like underground terrorists. These young marchers, in dark clothing, and with bandannas over their faces, smashed the windows of a Macy’s department store, slashed the tires of a police car, tried to block the Republican delegates’ buses, and threw various objects at police. Some of them held signs like “Thank God for Gustav,” “Fag McCain,” and “God hates Palin”.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how local police exercised the necessary restraint. Hundreds of cops, sweltering in heavy riot gear on a very hot day, protected delegates and streets from some of the craziest protesters. As a Russian-speaking Jew, who immigrated to America in search for freedom and capitalism, I shook my head when I saw some of the more peaceful marchers with anti-Israel, anti-capitalism and anti-American placards. I am no fan of George W. Bush or his war policies, but I don’t think that signs like “Free Palestine: support the right of return” or “Stop American aggression and idiocy!” were effective in terms of spreading the anti-war message. But we have freedom of speech, so even some radical views could be heard here. That is the beauty of America.

Ari Kagan is Senior Editor for Vecherniy New York, a Russian-language newspaper, and host of the weekly TV show “Here in America” on RTN – the Russian Television Network of America.

Lingering Doubts: Some Ethnic Voters Still Unsure About Obama

A new sense of the challenges that lie ahead for Sen. Barack Obama seems to be settling in among ethnic media reporters covering the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. On Monday, just as convention delegates were starting to buzz with excitement over Michelle Obama’s scheduled prime time TV speech, reporters and columnists who work for ethnic newspapers from across the country were discovering a shared hesitancy about Obama’s candidacy in the communities they cover.

“The Barack Obama campaign started late to try to reach out to Latinos,” said Pilar Marrero, a reporter and columnist for La Opinion in Los Angeles and a Feet in Two Worlds reporter “They basically gave up the Latino vote in the primaries to Hillary Clinton…and there’s a struggle now.”

Raymond Dean Jones of the Denver Urban Spectrum and Pilar Marrero from La Opinion speak with Feet in 2 Worlds executive producer John Rudolph.

Speaking at a forum on Deconstructing the Ethnic Vote, organized by Feet in Two Worlds and the New York Community Media Alliance, Marrero said, “polls show that Latinos are thinking of voting for Obama, they’re obviously thinking about voting Democratic.” But she cautioned that enthusiasm about Obama’s candidacy is not necessarily the main motivator for many Latinos. “After a couple of electoral seasons when a specific number of Latinos went to the Republican Party – up to 40 per cent of Latinos voted for George Bush in 2004 – they are going back to the Democratic Party because they don’t like the way things are going in the country. They don’t like the immigration rhetoric, they don’t like the economy, they don’t like the war.”

Noting the overwhelming Latino support that gave Hillary Clinton a critical edge in her primary victories over Obama in Texas, California and other states, Marrero said Obama has yet to match Clinton’s popularity. “The level of support that Obama has among Latinos is still not high enough,” she said.

The challenges facing Obama among Chinese American voters are even more stark, according to Lotus Chau, Senior Reporter at Sing Tao Daily in New York. Chinese voters, “think Obama is too young, he doesn’t understand the US-Chinese relationship, and he really doesn’t understand China’s issues,” Chau said. After it became clear that Obama would be the Democratic nominee, many Chinese voters who had been enthusiastic supporters of Hillary Clinton, “switched their votes to McCain,” according to Chau.

Lotus Chau of Sing Tao Daily speaking with John Rudolph. Jehangir Khattack, a freelance Pakistani journalist, looks on. Their conversation was broadcast on KGNU, independent community radio in Boulder and Denver, Colorado.

But Chau said Chinese American voters are curious about Obama. And she noted that the Obama campaign recently took steps to reach out to Asian voters including the launch of a bilingual Web site aimed at Asian Americans. “But it’s a little bit late,” Chau said, “because it just happened recently.”

Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid casts a shadow over Obama’s campaign in a number of immigrant and ethnic communities, even among African Americans. “There really is a reason why (during the primaries) the super delegates and many influential black people lined up behind Hillary,” said Raymond Dean Jones, a columnist for the Denver Urban Spectrum, a newspaper that serves people of color in the Denver area. “There was something so different about Obama that people needed to be convinced (that he was united) with the black community in America.”

Jones, who is a member of the Denver Mayor’s African American Advisory Commission, believes that black voters’ doubts about Obama during the primary season have faded as he moves into the fall campaign. Jones also points out that African Americans are very proud of Obama’s political achievements and his intelligence. Even so Jones argues Obama’s personal history – as the son of a white American mother and an African father – is an issue with some black voters. “The truth is, this is a different guy. And he’s different in many ways because he’s not like African Americans are, and people know that.”

Parts of Obama’s biography that give pause to some blacks may actually help him with Latinos, according to Pilar Marrero. “Some (Latinos) think that he’s an immigrant, but they confuse him with his father,” she observed. “And that’s good because that makes him understand the immigrant experience.” But when it comes to the question of which candidate best understands Latino voters’ concerns, Marrero believes Obama faces tough competition from Sen. John McCain . Even though, she acknowledged that, “the Republican brand is damaged among Latinos,” Marrero said “McCain’s been around, he’s pushed immigration reform. It’s really an advantage that he has.”

McCain Attacks First and in Spanish

The battle for the Latino vote has returned to American soil after Sen. John McCain’s three day trip to Colombia and Mexico.

The campaigns engaged in their own Independence Day back and forth on who would best represent Latinos. Nothing that would resemble fireworks, but remarkable because the first attack ad the McCain campaign has launched was aimed at a Hispanic audience. (more…)

UNITY: The Election's New Buzz Word?

Unity was the political headline coming out of Friday’s news cycle, after Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared side by side, in color-coordinated outfits, to put aside their 16-month internecine battle for the Democratic party’s nomination and show (dare we say) a united front at a 3,000 person rally in the aptly named town of Unity, New Hampshire

Press reports gushed over how Obama’s tie matched Clinton’s pantsuit, pondered their lack of a full hug, and pounced on the chance to show discord through a group of Clinton supporters, one of whom stuffed tissues in her ears as Obama spoke.

But the attempts to show solidarity went far past Clinton’s and Obama’s carefully choreographed display in the Granite State.

Preceding the Unity rally on Friday, Clinton spoke to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Washington, DC on Thursday and asked some of her most enthusiastic supporters to back Obama in the general election. She told the crowd that if Sen. John McCain won the presidency little would be done to advance the Latino agenda on immigration reform and the country would see, “four more years of the same.”

Clinton was greeted with a standing ovation. NALEO’s president Adolfo Carrión, the Bronx Borough President, referred to her as “nuestra hermana” – our sister. Hispanic supporters of Clinton say that her backing of Obama will be instrumental in winning the group’s support in November. During the primaries, Latinos backed Clinton 2 to 1 over Obama.

Obama also tried to show that unity was a natural next step for Latinos who had supported Clinton. In his speech at the NALEO convention on Saturday, he stressed that Blacks and Latinos have a shared history in the struggle for equal rights. “We marched together in the streets of Chicago to fix our broken immigration system,” he said to the applauding crowd.  “And it’s because of that 20-year record of partnership with your communities that you can trust me when I say that I’ll be your partner in the White House and I will be your champion in the White House. And that’s what you need now more than ever,” Obama continued. “Because for eight long years, Washington hasn’t been working for ordinary Americans. And few have been hit harder than Latinos and African Americans.”

Democrats aren’t the only ones trying to build bridges after messy political battles. Sen. John McCain spoke to the NALEO convention on Saturday, promising to pursue comprehensive immigration reform within his first 100 days in office and to reach out to a community that became alienated from the Republican party after Congress’ failed attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform last year.

McCain was on of the chief authors of the failed bill. He now must fend off attacks from Obama, that attempt to stoke doubts that McCain and the Republican Party cannot be trusted to follow through on the immigration issue.

Obama, who took the stage after McCain at Saturday’s convention told the crowd: “[McCain] deserves great credit as a champion of comprehensive reform. I admire him for it, I know that he talked about that when he just spoke before you, but what he didn’t mention is that when he was running for his party’s nomination, he walked away from that commitment.  He said that he wouldn’t even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote.  If we are going to solve the challenges we face, we can’t vacillate, we can’t shift depending on our politics. You need a president who will pursue genuine solutions day in and day out in a consistent way, and that is my commitment to you.”

The attacks come at a time when Latino support for McCain is sagging. A recent AP-Yahoo poll showed that Obama’s lead among Latinos was 47 to 22 over McCain, with 26 percent undecided.

McCain’s attempts to regain ground on the immigration issue and rebuild ties with the Hispanic community has not gone unnoticed A headline in the Los Angeles Spanish-language daily La Opinion from early last week put it this way “McCain regresa al centro en inmigración.” – McCain returns to the center on immigration.

Saturday’s speech was just the beginning of an intensified effort by McCain to regain ground with Latino voters.. From July 1st to the 3rd, McCain will visit Colombia and Mexico to stress the ties the United States has with Latin America and focus on the shared security and economic concerns.

Unity – or unidad- it seems, might just rival ‘Change’ as a theme in this year’s election.



Podcast: Doubts about Obama

Despite Senator Barack Obama’s recent string of primary and caucus victories there is deep unease about his candidacy in some immigrant communities. Obama’s positions on Pakistan, Iraq, and the Middle East could cost him votes and campaign contributions from Russian and Pakistani immigrants.

Ari Kagan

Two journalists, Ari Kagan, senior editor of the Russian newspaper Vecherniy New York and Jehangir Khattak a writer for Pakistan News and Defence Journal, discuss the challenges facing the Democratic senator from Illinois in his presidential campaign.


Kagan and Khattak also talk about Senator Hillary Clinton’s support among Pakistani and Russian immigrants, and why, if she fails to win the Democratic nomination, some of that support will go to Republican Senator John McCain, rather than Barack Obama.


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