U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo blasts presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain for his secret meeting with Hispanic leaders in Chicago last week and challenges the Senator from Arizona to stand firm on border security, regardless of the audience he's addressing.
In a letter sent to McCain on Tuesday and released by the Associated Press, the congressman from Colorado chastises McCain for reportedly pushing his amnesty agenda, then slams him for promising the group that he plans to pursue comprehensive immigration reform.
McCain, the letter contends, promised Republican lawmakers and activists that he will set aside his push to grant illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship, at least until he can certify that the U.S. borders have been closed to illegal immigration. Yet, at the same time, he is trying to win back support from Hispanic voters who fled the GOP when the party took up the immigration issue in 2005.
Tancredo, who drew attention early in the Republican primaries as a champion of securing the nation's borders against illegal crossing and fighting against amnesty for illegal immigrants, questions McCain on whether he is backpedaling on border security.
"Senator, given your past sponsorship of amnesty legislation, such statements raise troubling questions,” reads Tancredo's letter. “Are you planning to break a promise you made in February to postpone all other immigration reform legislation until we have first secured our borders?"
Tancredo alleges promises for secure borders were dangled as carrots to lead legislators into voting for amnesty measures. He claims they were then yanked away unfulfilled "after amnesty was achieved."
Tancredo's letter serves as a bold challenge to McCain as he prepares to address the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., next month in San Diego.
"I challenge you to deliver a message to that assembly which does not pander to their amnesty agenda,” Tancredo writes.
“You should speak to the La Raza convention, and to all Hispanic audiences, about America's need for secure borders as a priority above all other immigration reforms,” notes Tancredo. “Moreover, I hope you take that opportunity to make it clear that it is in the long term interest of Mexico and other Latin American nations to halt the massive out-migration of their citizens."
Tancredo’s letter goes on to say, “Senator, you have said many times in recent months, 'I got the message' on border security. If you go to the La Raza convention in San Diego and deliver a message that surrenders to their amnesty agenda, tens of millions of Americans who heard your earlier message will feel betrayed – and rightly so."
Tancredo warns, "Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives are resolved to never let that happen again. Are you prepared to wage war on conservatives to secure another amnesty for illegal aliens? I hope not.”
The letter concludes with a challenge to McCain to maintain a commitment to border security "whether the audience [is] black or white, Asian or Hispanic."
Rosalanna Pulido, a Hispanic Republican who attended the Chicago meeting with McCain, tells the Associated Press the senator appears one way in front of white Republicans and another in front of Hispanics.
"He's having his private meetings to rally Hispanics and to tell them what they want to hear," she says. "I'm outraged that he would reach out to me as a Hispanic but not as a conservative."
Tancredo's letter is only the most recent fire McCain has drawn for his closed-door meeting last week, and presidential challenger Barack Obama’s campaign is not letting the potential flip-flop go unnoticed.
In a conference call with reporters, Obama’s communications director Robert Gibbs describes the Chicago event as double-talk, referencing McCain's advocacy of immigration reform in 2006 and 2007, his rejection of the reform bills he once promoted, and his new promises of reform once again.
“Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is going after Republican rival Sen. John McCain, questioning whether the Arizona senator is offering contradictory language on the hot-button issue of immigration reform,” Gibbs responds in a statement released by the Obama camp.
“[This is] just one of several examples through out the week of John McCain being in a tortured debate with John McCain,” Gibbs says, terming the event as “the end of pander week aboard the double-talk express of the John McCain campaign.”
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