Michael Tarm, AP, June 19, 2008
Republican presidential John McCain assured Hispanic leaders he would push through Congress legislation to overhaul federal immigration laws if elected, several people who attended a private meeting with the candidate said Thursday.
Both McCain and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama support giving legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, but neither has made the issue a centerpiece of the campaign. At one time, McCain’s campaign suffered because of his stance on the issue.
Pulido [complained Rosanna Pulido, a conservative Hispanic Republican], who heads the Illinois Minuteman Project, which advocates for restrictive immigration laws, said she thought McCain was “pandering to the crowd” by emphasizing immigration reform in his 15-minute speech.
“He’s having his private meetings to rally Hispanics and to tell them what they want to hear,” she said. “I’m outraged that he would reach out to me as a Hispanic but not as a conservative.”
After the event, McCain met privately with Martin Sandoval, an Illinois state senator and Democratic convention delegate for former candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sandoval said he left open the possibility of backing McCain, citing his immigration stance and pledge to keep business taxes low.