Obama AWOL on Immigration Reform

Posted: Jul 08, 2008 3:34 PM

One of John McCain’s Hispanic surrogates forcefully said Barack Obama is deceitfully inflating his role in the Senate on immigration reform for political benefit.

Prompting this criticism is a claim Obama made before the League of United Latin American Citizens. “I reached across the aisle in the Senate to fight for comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama told the immigration advocates in a speech Tuesday.

[I filed a story on McCain's speech to the group and renewed efforts to court the Hispanic vote HERE]

The Cuban-born Rep.Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R.-Fla.) said Obama didn’t deserve any credit for advancing the bill in a conference call on behalf of the McCain campaign.

 “He was AWOL!” Diaz-Balart said. “I remember when Senator McCain came over here and met with House leadership and he met with the Chairman at that time of the Judiciary, Sensenbrenner here in the House to move this issue. To move the issue forward in meeting after meeting where a number of us in the House where there in the Senate, with multiple senators from both parties, by the way. Senator Obama was nowhere to be seen! He was absolutely AWOL.”

“The reality of the matter is that he has never worked on the issue except he did team up with an anti-immigrant senator, Mr. Dorgan to kill a very important leg of that legislation, the temporary worker program,” Diaz-Balart said.

 The bill Obama is attempting to take credit for was sponsored by McCain and Democratic Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.)

Jack Tapper of ABC News explained Obama’s minor role in the debate on his blog. The relevant part of his explanation is below.

There was a cohesive bipartisan group led by Sens. McCain and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass, that worked to defeat amendments that would hurt the overall bill's chance of final passage -- amendments that were too liberal for the Republicans and too conservative for the Democrats. And on at least five occasions, Obama voted for amendments against the wishes of the bipartisan group, including Kennedy.

These included an amendment Obama offered that would have sunsetted the merit-based evaluation system for immigrants after five years; two amendments from Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, to sunset both the temporary guest worker visa program and the Y-1 non-immigrant temporary worker visa program after five years; and two amendments from Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, that would have removed the requirement that 'Y' non-immigrant visa holders leave the United States before they are able to renew their visa, and would have lowered the annual visa quota for guest workers from 400,000 to 200,000 per year.

Obama voted for all five; Kennedy voted against all five.