News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Will McCain and Obama avoid the immigration issue?

One need only look at public reaction to the recent string of Immigration and Customs Enforcement workplace raids to see that immigration is still a hot-button issue. Supporters of undocumented workers have launched protest demonstrations in most of the cities where the ICE raids have taken place. Meanwhile the gloating by the xenophobic fringe is reaching new lows in hate speech.

“…they are going to do all the sob stories about how their "cheeldrin" have been traumatized by the illegals being arrested in front of them, etc. "Leetle Pedro was traumatized, stop dee hate - etc. sob, sob, etc." wrote an online reader of the Washington Post. “Time to start kicking down doors and taking out the garbage,” posted another Washington Post reader at the newspaper’s website.

With so much hysteria lurking below the surface, the media is sure to bring up the immigration controversy as we draw closer to McCain and Obama’s contest for the White House. However, it’s unlikely either candidate will take the bait. Both senators’ moderate views on immigration puts them at odds with the nativist wing of their respective parties. In other words, they have more to lose than gain by debating the issue in any substantive way.

However, one wildcard in this political poker game is a recent Gallup poll showing Obama with a 30% lead over McCain among Hispanics. If McCain’s campaign strategists assume all Hispanics are one-issue voters, they may advise their candidate to take a hard right turn on immigration, essentially writing off the Hispanic vote to gain nativist support.

If McCain changes his views on immigration reform for political gain, then the floodgates will open once again on this divisive issue. Stay tuned.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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