Hard-liners say both candidates back amnesty
Will their frustration force them to turn to a third party to protest U.S. immigration policy?
By Eunice Moscoso
The Cox News Service, August 3, 2008
Washington, DC — Groups angry about illegal immigration have one word for the top presidential contenders frustration.
Both Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees support giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship under certain requirements.
To Roy Beck, the president of NumbersUSA, that means amnesty.
'It's abjectly frustrating,' he said. 'Both of them are absolutely abysmal on immigration.'
Beck, whose group supports lower levels of immigration, predicted that a disproportionate number of its 650,000 members would vote for third party candidates in protest, including Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin or Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, a former congressman.
However, Beck said that the vast majority would 'hold their nose' and vote for McCain or Obama because of other issues.
Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank in Washington that advocates stronger immigration controls, said people who want more enforcement are clearly disillusioned with the major party candidates.
However, he said that few have heard of Baldwin or the Constitution Party. Barr, on the other hand, has some name recognition nationally and a lot in his home state of Georgia, Camarota said.
He predicted that Barr could be a spoiler in Georgia and a few other states if enough conservatives vote for him in a tight race.
On his Web site, Barr states that the United States should end birthright citizenship as well as foreign language ballots, which 'discourage assimilation.'
John J. Pitney, a professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College, said that immigration restrictionists probably won't flock to Barr.
'Though he is a hard-liner, the Libertarian Party essentially supports open borders,' he said. 'This mixed message will not appeal to those who want a clear one.'
The immigration issue could still hurt both major party candidates, Pitney said. Obama's immigration stand will make it harder for him to appeal to working-class voters in the South and mid-Atlantic, while McCain's will dampen enthusiasm in the GOP base, he said.
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group that lobbies for lower levels of immigration, said that Obama and McCain will try to continue the policy of the current White House, which has not been successful.
President Bush pushed hard for an immigration plan that would have given many illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, created a large guest worker program, and enhanced border security.
The measure failed in the Senate last year after strong opposition from conservatives and an outcry by groups such as FAIR.
Mehlman said the organizations are gearing up for a similar battle with the new president, no matter who wins.
'Just because John McCain and Barack Obama favor this, doesn't mean its going to happen,' he said.