Tag: McCain

A Heated Week: NY Times Chastises Candidates for Lying on Immigration

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have been going at each other’s throats in Spanish-language TV commercials on the issue of immigration. As we’ve reported through this week (here, here, here, here and here), the ads – and the candidate’s remarks to Latino audiences – were not always accurate or truthful — and the two candidates tend to talk about immigration only when speaking to Hispanics.

The New York Times has published a harsh editorial on the matter, in which it takes the two candidates to task for, “ignoring immigration,” and for, “lying about it to voters.”

The newspaper calls McCain’s charges that Obama helped kill immigration reform in the Senate, “a jaw-dropping distortion.” Then it calls Obama’s response, “just as fraudulent,” for portraying McCain as a friend of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s.

Then it goes on to say,

Immigration was broken before the candidates started this repugnant ad war, and looks as if it will stay that way for at least the duration of this campaign.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration keeps raiding factories and farms, terrorizing immigrant families while exposing horrific accounts of workplace abuses. Children toil in slaughterhouses; detainees languish in federal lockups, dying without decent medical care. Day laborers are harassed and robbed of wages. An ineffective border fence is behind schedule and millions over budget. Local enforcers drag citizens and legal residents into their nets, to the cheers of the Minutemen.

Both candidates once espoused smart, thoughtful positions for fixing the problem. But Mr. McCain is shuffling in step with his restrictionist party. Mr. Obama gave immigration one brief mention at the Democratic convention, in a litany of big-trouble issues, like abortion, guns and same-sex marriage, on which he seemed to say that the best Americans could hope for are small compromises and to agree to disagree.

Caught in the Citizenship Backlog: Uncertainty Over A Crucial Swing Vote.

As Feet in 2 Worlds has reported recently, the candidates haven’t been talking much about immigration policy. But according to a couple of new reports released this week in honor of National Citizenship Day (September 17), immigration and naturalization are very much on the minds of the nation’s newcomers – whether they can vote or not.

According to a new fact sheet [here’s the pdf file] issued this week by the Immigration Policy Center, nearly 1.4 million naturalization applications were filed in fiscal year 2007 – almost double the number filed in 2006.

What’s more, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS, the processing arm of the Department of Homeland Security), the number of people caught in the immigration processing backlog at the end of 2007 soared to 1.1 million people – a nearly 250% increase from the previous year. Though USCIS promises to process naturalization applications within 10 to 12 months of their filing, according to a recent report [pdf here] from the Office of Immigration Statistics, it’s doubtful all the immigrants waiting to become citizens will actually achieve citizenship in time to vote in this year’s election.

Processing times vary in different regions: the longest wait, USCIS says, is in Charlotte, NC, where by the end of this month it will take 14.9 months to process citizenship applications. Processing in Los Angeles and Miami is expected to take roughly one year; these two cities together accounted for nearly 20 per cent of new naturalized U.S. citizens last year.

The shortest processing time is five months, projected in 17 regions nationwide.

This means that someone in Charlotte who applied to become a U.S. citizen in July 2007 would probably not be able to do so by the end of this month, meaning they would not have been able to vote in the local primary elections last week. It’s also unlikely they would become a citizen in time to vote in the general election, as voter registration deadlines in some states are at least one month before the actual election. (Locally, a New York Immigration Coalition report says that nearly 60,000 immigrants in New York’s immigration backlog will be able to vote in November if USCIS keeps to its initial promise of a six-month processing time. The report goes on to say that New York has 126,000 cases mired in the immigration backlog.) (more…)

The "Dos Caras" Controversy: Slinging Mud in Spanish

Latino outreach roared onto the front page of the mainstream media yesterday, after a new Spanish- language TV ad by Sen. Barack Obama accused John McCain of having “dos caras” or “two faces” when it comes to relations with Latinos.


“They want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with, the intolerance,” an announcer says as a picture and quotes from conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh flash on screen saying, “stupid and unqualified Mexicans,” and, “shut your mouth or get out.”

“John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One tells lies just to get our vote and another, even worse, continues the failed policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families,” the ad continues.

The ad had both the McCain campaign and Rush Limbaugh crying foul.

“Obama is now stoking racism in the country,” Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail to Politico‘s Jonathan Martin. “Obama is a disgrace – he wants the public to think he is Mr. Nice Guy while his thugs are in Alaska looking for dirt on Palin and he runs race-baiting ads and lies about what he has done and what McCain has done.”


The Mother of All Battleground States: Can Florida's Hispanics Help Obama?

After Sen. John McCain campaigned across Florida earlier this week, Sen. Barack Obama arrives in the Sunshine State tomorrow. Recent polls show Obama either tied or several points behind his Republican rival.

Florida is not only the mother of all battleground states, but it’s also one of four key states where the Hispanic vote could help decide the election. The others are Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

“Hispanics in Florida” has long been a synonym for Cubans. The state’s conservative Cuban-American vote has traditionally leaned Republican. But a recent poll by Florida-based Democratic pollster Bendixen & Associates puts Hispanics in the state, “about evenly divided,” between the two major candidates, according to Spanish newswire Agencia EFE. (In the other three “Latino battleground” states, Obama leads among Hispanics.)

This would seem to mirror the fact that Cubans are no longer a majority of Florida’s Hispanic voting population. Another Bendixen study says Cubans are 40 percent of the state’s 1.1 million Hispanic voters, while non-Cubans add up to 44 percent -this includes Dominicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and people from other Latin American countries.

This diversification of the Latino population could give Obama some hope in a key state that has gone “red” in the last two presidential elections. Political scientist Luis Fraga of the University of Washington, an expert on Hispanic outreach in presidential elections, told the Austin American-Statesman that, “this growing Latino diversity and more second-generation Cubans — who vote Republican less consistently than their parents — combine to give Democrats a fighting chance in Florida,” Juan Castillo writes.

That’s probably one reason why McCain spoke at a Puerto Rican association in Orlando this week. The central Florida city has become a Puerto Rican stronghold over recent years -with many migrating there from New York and other places- and, again according to Bendixen, swing voters are a high percentage of this population.

This is how the Orlando Sentinel explained it:

Swing voters … are highly coveted this election because experts predict they will determine the presidential outcome in Florida, a key battleground.

In Central Florida, there are almost a quarter of a million swing voters, most of whom are Puerto Ricans or other Hispanics. Until now, they have remained a largely untapped resource. But both political campaigns are gearing up to target them during the next three months.

“There’s no more important voter in this media market than the Hispanic swing vote,” said pollster Sergio Bendixen, who prepared the most recent study on those Central Florida voters for Democracia USA, a group registering new Latino voters.

Latinos and Immigration: More Customized Messages From Senator McCain

As he campaigned across Florida this week, Sen. John McCain gave a Latino audience in Orlando a version of his stump speech that differed significantly from speeches he gave to other Florida audiences.

Speaking at a town hall meeting at the Asociación Borinqueña de Orlando, a Puerto Rican group, McCain told the audience that he would make immigration reform one of his, “first priorities,” if he is elected president.

But in another Florida appearance yesterday, in Jacksonville, the Republican candidate remained mum about the subject. Beth Reinhard and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald report,

Once pummeled for backing what critics tarred as ”amnesty,” McCain has talked little about immigration during the general election campaign. He did not raise the issue Monday in Jacksonville, reliably Republican turf where he began a two-day tour that wraps up Tuesday in Tampa.

But Orlando offered a different audience. Central Florida is home to a fast-growing Hispanic community coveted for its political independence, unlike the staunchly Republican Cuban-American voters who have dominated Miami-Dade politics.

Earlier this week we reported on other instances where McCain has offered different messages on immigration policy depending on the composition of his audience.

From Postville to Laurel to St. Paul: No Clarity on Immigration Reform

Last week, as many of the nation’s Latino Democratic operatives and immigrant rights activists expressed high hopes in Denver for the future of comprehensive immigration reform, the reality of the nation’s current immigration policy was vividly displayed in tiny Laurelton, Mississippi.

Nearly 600 workers were swept up by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in a worksite raid at Howard Industries, an electrical parts manufacturer. The sweep in Laurel, population 18,000, made it the largest immigration raid in US history, eclipsing the raid earlier this summer in Postville, IA (click here to listen to this recent NPR radio update from Postville), which continues to be in the news.

The very day that federal immigration authorities arrested undocumented workers at Howard industries, the Obama campaign removed every mention of immigration reform from a convention speech by Bronx Rep. José Serrano, one of Congress’ most persistent advocates of comprehensive immigration reform.

Despite the high hopes of immigrant rights advocates and legislators that the next president will finally take on and win reforms to federal immigration laws, both McCain and Obama have been all but silent on the issue as the election approaches.

As recently as last year, both candidates supported legislative proposals that would have granted legal status to many of the nation’s roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants–but both start their policy statements today with the need to get tough on undocumented immigrants first.   The candidates have each, at times, supported proposals to strengthen the nation’s southern border fence and to penalize employers who hire undocumented workers. Such law-and-order strategies continue to appear in their platforms today.

On the policy pages of his website, Senator McCain highlights the nation’s notoriously porous southern border and states:

When we have achieved our border security goal, we must enact and implement the other parts of practical, fair and necessary immigration policy.

For his part, Senator Obama’s campaign website outlines his support for

a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, not violate the law, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

Despite much-discussed efforts to mobilize Latino voters, Feet in 2 Worlds reporters covering the convention in Denver found few Democratic operatives willing to broach the subject of immigration policy, and then only in conversations far from the convention’s main stage, and usually in the context of encouraging Latino voters to support Senator Obama’s candidacy.

In fact, a form of détente has emerged: both presidential campaigns appear to have decided to broach the immigration subject only in smaller discussions with tailored audiences, such as Latino civil rights activists (at the annual conferences of the National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens), or wealthy Silicon Valley campaign donors.

A FOX News producer detailed a fractious debate within the Republican Party as it tried to finalize its final immigration policy platform last week before its own convention. She wrote that some delegates wanted platform language that rejected all efforts at “comprehensive immigration reform,” because they considered the phrase “a code word for amnesty.”

The recently-released GOP platform devotes a whole one and half pages to immigration policy with a focus on border security, a rejection of “amnesty” and “en masse legalizations,” and a call for English to be the official language of the US. For its part, the Democratic Party platform promises, “tough, practical, and humane immigration reform in the first year of the next administration.” The document also underlines the need to, “require undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.” Notably, both parties start their platforms by stressing the need for expanded border enforcement.

Obama himself made one mention of immigration policy during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last Thursday, but without any prescriptions for change:

Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

Despite the high hopes, the current face of the issue is rooted in the Bush administration’s enforcement-only approach. In addition to a series of high-profile, large-scale work site immigration raids, the other standout federal program this year was ‘Operation Scheduled Departure.’ The short-lived effort, which sought to encourage undocumented immigrants to deport themselves, was quietly laid to rest at the end of August after a dismal three-week pilot phase. Only eight immigrants volunteered to return to their home countries through the program.

In Postville, IA, immigrant workers were detained, charged and tried in a matter of days. A majority of the 289 workers swept up in Postville’s raid were put into fast-track deportation proceedings and flown back to their home countries within a month of the raid.

Mississippi immigrant rights advocates, including the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA), reported signs of immigration agents preparing for a large-scale raid in Laurel over the weekend, establishing roadblocks at Wal-Mart parking lots and renting most of the hotel rooms in the small town. MIRA also reported possible preparations for another raid at the Southern Hens poultry plant in Mossell, MS, where ICE agents were reportedly preparing to put the plant under lockdown.

In the midst of an increased federal focus on apprehending undocumented immigrants, many undocumented immigrants reportedly were reluctant to evacuate from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and opted to stay behind and ride out the recent Hurricane Gustav. Despite assurances from the Department of Homeland Security to the contrary, immigrants were worried federal agents would institute immigration documentation checks on the buses provided to evacuate residents, according to the New Orleans Worker’s Center for Racial Justice.

Mississippi legislators recently passed a new state law that makes it a felony for businesses to employ undocumented immigrants. It is part of a new wave of state-based immigration laws dubbed ‘employer sanctions’ and enacted in states with large immigrant populations. These laws have been decried by business owners, immigrant advocates, and workers’ rights activists as impractical, unfair, and likely to drive immigrant workers further into an underground economy.

In a nation that is increasingly black and brown, and in an election year when one of the major party presidential nominees is the child of an African immigrant, there is still no clarity about what the next administration might do to transform federal immigration law.


Feet in 2 Worlds on WNYC Radio: Obama and McCain aggressively court Latino voters

“Millions of Latino voters…are being targeted like never before on the Web, in radio, television and print. Campaigns are hiring strategists, media consultants and recruiting Latinos for the ground war.”

Eleven million Latinos are expected to vote in this year’s presidential election (60% more than in the 2004 elections), and 3 million of them are young voters.

Many media outlets have focused on the emerging Latino vote; but most news coverage has lumped Latino voters of all ages and types together into one category.

In her radio feature that aired on August 18 on WNYC in New York, Feet in 2 Worlds journalist Martina Guzmán examines how the Presidential campaigns are increasingly tailoring their outreach to subsets of Latino voters: a large and diverse electorate that has displayed a spectrum of responses to the candidates’ multi-million dollar ad campaigns.

The Obama campaign has been heavily targeting young Latinos through social networking sites like MiGente – the Latino equivalent of FaceBook. One of the most popular links is a to a video called Podemos Con Obama.  According to the William C. Velasquez institute, 50 thousand young eligible Latinos turn 18 every month, and from 2000 to 2004 Latino youth turnout increased by 13 percent.

Although the numbers are high, some consultants argue that the youth vote is unreliable. “This country is changing and young Latino voters are very excited but historically we don’t know if they turnout,” said Republican strategists Leslie Sanchez. Meanwhile the McCain campaign is reaching out to other segments of the Hispanic community such as Latino military families. They are running a television ad called God’s Children in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. That ad pays homage to Latino veterans and soldiers who are currently fighting in Iraq.

Guzmán reports on how the presidential candidates are crafting sophisticated messaging toward Latinos in the 2008 presidential election. Her story aired this morning during Morning Edition on WNYC, New York Public Radio. Click here to listen online.

Ward Connerly Seeks Common Ground with Obama on Affirmative Action

Do the father of anti-affirmative action initiatives and Sen. Barack Obama have more in common than one would think?

According to Ward Connerly, a former regent of the University of California system and the force behind efforts to dismantle public affirmative action programs, Obama’s position on affirmative action is so nuanced that they agree on almost everything.

“I’ve read Mr. Obama’s statement that he believes his daughters should not receive preferential treatment over a poor white child,” said Connerly in an interview from the Sacramento office of his Civil Rights Institute. “I agree with him. In fact, I agree with a lot of the things he says about affirmative action, except his conclusion on the initiatives.”

The ‘initiatives’ that Connerly is referring to are the ballot initiatives Connerly has helped sponsor in Arizona, Nebraska and Colorado to end affirmative action in public university systems and government contracting.

Op-Ed: Obama Has a Long Road to Travel to Win Support from American Jews

Senator Barack Obama can’t seem to shake his “Jewish” problem.

He is perceived by many American Jews and a large part of the pro-Israel non-Jewish community as biased in favor of Palestinians, Iran, Syria, and Hamas. Despite his repeated statements concerning the security of Israel, Obama still has work to do in terms of persuading Israel and its supporters that as President he will not be another Jimmy Carter who believes that Israel is an “apartheid state” that terrorizes and bullies its neighbors.

Obama’s recent trip to the Middle East was in part intended to assuage these fears, but it was just another step down a long road of attempting to appeal to the Jewish community in the United States. Obama has not gained much ground in these efforts because his outreach has been haphazard and marked by missteps that make Obama look like he’s playing politics when he talks about his support of Israel.


Obama Softens on Pakistan. A Pakistani journalist asks why?

Barack Obama’s trip to active combat theaters around the world has raised an important question: Is Obama having after-thoughts about his hard line policy for dealing with Pakistan, or has he changed his views to accommodate the on-the-ground realities he found on a maiden visit to one of toughest terrains of the world?

On his visit to Afghanistan, Obama sounded a more conciliatory tone towards Pakistan in contrast to his previous advocacy for unilateral military strikes on actionable intelligence inside Pakistani territory. Instead of encouraging US incursions inside Pakistan’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Obama says he would like to work with the government in Islamabad, “to root out terrorist camps on the Pakistani territory.”

In an interview on the CBS Evening News, Obama refused to advocate unilateral military action on targets inside Pakistani territory. Instead, he recognized the need for greater cooperation with Pakistan. He admitted that the US could not solve the security problems in Afghanistan without engaging Pakistan. Obama said the US should use its military and economic assistance to persuade Pakistan to act against the insurgents. He did not repeat his earlier talk of making military aid to Islamabad conditional on Pakistan’s performance in the “war on terror.” He also did not spell out the tools he would use as Commander-in-Chief to “press Pakistan hard” to fall in line with US policy and go after terrorist targets inside its territory. (more…)