To honor Senator McCain’s life and legacy, America’s Voice en Español Director Maribel Hastings penned the following column, originally published in Univision and translated by Lynn Tramonte.
As Hastings laments, “Now that the immigrant community, their citizen and permanent resident relatives, and activists who support them are under an all-out attack from an anti-immigrant and anti-minority administration, the silence of McCain’s voice will be an enormous hole.”
The entire column is available online here in Spanish and translated below:
Nine years ago this was the title of my column, only with a different last name–that of Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts.
Curiously, these two Lions of the Senate died on the same day, the 25th of August, and of the same type of brain cancer.
Although I don’t share some of the ideological positions of the senator from Arizona, and sometimes I lament his change of position on topics like immigration, I always admired him for his conception of valor and honor, as well as his strong sense of history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. I admired him, ultimately, for personifying what a legislator is supposed to be: for his ability to work on a bipartisan basis, to challenge authority, even within his own party, even when he had to do it without thinking about the political fallout–putting country first, over himself and his party.
I came to Washington, DC twenty-five years ago when there were still sensible voices in Congress. Politics is dirty, for sure, and there have always been and always will be corrupt politicians, but back then they could still have high-minded debates. And even when legislators were on opposite sides of the spectrum, there existed a level of respect. Differences were discussed. Sometimes consensus was reached, sometimes not. But tribalism wasn’t as ingrained then as it is today.
That’s why I profoundly lament that McCain’s voice is extinguished at this specific, historic moment we are living in, when we need it the most; when the duplicitous cowardice of his Republican colleagues in Congress has them turned into accomplices in the misdeeds of the current occupant of the White House who himself attacked McCain, even in the middle of his illness, perhaps because McCain reminded him of what he could never be.
Moreover I appreciate the opportunity to have covered, as a journalist, part of McCain’s career, including his work alongside the “Liberal Lion” Senator Ted Kennedy in trying to pass bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. I enjoyed covering part of his presidential campaign in 2008 and I treasure the opportunity of having interviewed him.
The foolish selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate undermined his campaign as did, perhaps, the questioning of Obama’s patriotism. In an iconic moment, McCain defended Obama to a voter at a rally, who said she didn’t trust Obama because he is “an Arab.” McCain interrupted her saying, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” Palin, on the other hand, played the part of Obama attack dog at rallies that were a prelude to the over the top ones we saw in 2016 with Donald Trump.
Perhaps in 2008 history wasn’t on McCain’s side against a young African American senator, Obama, who took the stage and turned out to vote en masse groups that hadn’t before. And maybe in 2008 McCain couldn’t effectively compete for Latino voters because by trying to win over the ultra-conservative base in his party, he declared he would not vote for his own immigration reform bill and he emphasized border security first. The same base that never forgave him because he had worked with Kennedy on a bipartisan immigration plan.
Two years later, in 2010, when he was running for reelection to the Senate, McCain surprised again when he called the controversial Arizona anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, an “important step forward.” That same year, he voted against the Dream Act he used to support, arguing that this version did not have enough border security measures.
Despite everything, McCain maintained his support of immigration reform for economic, humanitarian, and national security reasons. In 2013, perhaps to compensate for his previous immigration decisions, he led efforts to pass a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill that included a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, as well as a version of the Dream Act. As part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” McCain was instrumental in winning passage of this bill in the Senate, although the proposal then died in the House of Representatives under Republican control.
Now that the immigrant community, their citizen and permanent resident relatives, and activists who support them are under an all-out attack from an anti-immigrant and anti-minority administration, the silence of McCain’s voice will be an enormous hole.
As I wrote about Kennedy, Senator McCain is irreplaceable. One would like to hope that others would continue his legacy, but the shameful conduct of Republican legislators in today’s Congress doesn’t leave much room for hope. Hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully the legacy of honor, love of country and of democracy, of putting country before party will shake up a Republican Party dominated by voices of division, prejudice and shameful conduct. Hopefully.
In the meantime, thank you very much for your service, Senator McCain.
Rest in peace.