McCain said the following at CPAC:
Surely, I have held other positions that have not met with widespread agreement from conservatives. I won’t pretend otherwise nor would you permit me to forget it. On the issue of illegal immigration, a position which provoked the outspoken opposition of many conservatives, I stood my ground aware that my position would imperil my campaign. I respect your opposition for I know that the vast majority of critics to the bill based their opposition in a principled defense of the rule of law. And while I and other Republican supporters of the bill were genuine in our intention to restore control of our borders, we failed, for various and understandable reasons, to convince Americans that we were. I accept that, and have pledged that it would be among my highest priorities to secure our borders first, and only after we achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure, would we address other aspects of the problem in a wa y that defends the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration.
McCain claims to “respect the opposition” but during the amnesty debate, he repeatedly insulted his opponents calling them racist and even cursing at Senator Cornyn for his reluctance to go along with the bill.
His rhetoric reveals that he has not changed one bit. The issue is not just “illegal immigration,” it’s the million-plus legal aliens brought to our country. They are not here on the basis of skill or contribution or cultural similarity, but such arbitrary criteria as “visa lotteries” and “family reunification.”
Further, he implies the only legitimate basis to oppose massive illegal immigration–3/4 of which is from Latin America–is concern for the “rule of law.” He’s calling the rest of us racist. Our right to preserve our country, its historical demographics, and its culture and way of life is by implication illegitimate. But what about the poverty these people bring with them? What about the impact these foreign people have on our cultural integrity, values, crime, housing costs, congestion, environment, etc.? There is no reason that any authentic conservative would classify such arguments as illegitimate, as the first principles allowing such arguments–belief in a specific way of life, wariness about change, affirmation of a distinct American culture–are also the basis for our concern about leftism in our schools, gay marriage, welfare, and the like.
Finally, like Bush, he says he’ll “secure our borders first.” How about “first, last, and always?” It is distressing that many Mexicans are still hopping the non-existent fence at the border, but we are also concerned millions of these people are crowding our cities and towns. They can be easily identified and deported. The “comprehensive” immigration argument is a red herring; it supposes that we can’t simply be committed, as we should have been before, to serious immigration enforcement at the border and within the nation’s interior.
McCain did not pledge not to have guest workers and amnesty, nor did he say anything about reducing legal immigration. He’ll secure the border, only to let these people in the front door by invitation. He may be a man of his convictions, but those convictions on this issue, even with the rhetorical window dressing, are anything but conservative.