Senator John McCain offered a stark warning to fellow Republicans: We must address immigration reform “in a constructive fashion, or we do not win the 2016 election.”
The comment comes following a tumultuous few weeks for Republican candidates vying for the White House in 2016.
On Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker earned condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike for opposing legal immigration, an extremist position that earned him accolades from the likes of Alabama’s Jeff Sessions and Ann Coulter.
The week before that, immigration advocates accused Sen. Marco Rubio of political doublespeak, appearing to try to have it both ways on immigration by pairing his opposition to executive action with support for DREAMers, yet refusing to specify when or how he would end DACA.
That same week, former Gov. Jeb Bush — who famously described “someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally” as “an act of love” — endorsed Louisiana’s David Vitter. Vitter, a virulently anti-immigrant voice in the Senate, recently proposed an amendment to deny citizenship to babies born on U.S. soil unless their parents can prove their own residency status at the time of birth.
In the past, Vitter has opposed the DREAM Act, comprehensive immigration reform, and has been a beneficiary of the same prosecutorial discretion he’s refused to grant to undocumented immigrants.
McCain, the GOP’s 2008 Presidential nominee and one of the authors of the Senate’s 2013 immigration reform bill, added that Republicans must address immigration reform in a humane manner or face a third-straight Presidential loss: “The reality is, is that we are losing support in the Hispanic community.”
[McCain] said Tuesday that he’s worried GOP presidential candidates could hurt their party if they criticize immigrants too harshly.
He said that one of GOP 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s “biggest mistakes” was his comment about illegal immigrants self-deporting.
Romney said in 2012 that he backs “self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”
Due to his hardline immigration stance, Mitt Romney lost Latino voters to President Obama by a margin of 75%-23% (based on detailed polling conducted by Latino Decisions). Now with 2016 candidates like Scott Walker (for now) settling on a position to the right of Romney, Republicans could be headed for yet another landslide loss.