The U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit challenging SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, appears to be motivated by racial politics, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said Saturday in Ahwatukee Foothills.
“This has all the trappings of a political effort to solidify the Hispanic vote,” McCain said just after a public town hall meeting at the Grace Inn at Elliot Road and Interstate 10, which attracted about 70 people.
He accused federal officials of lacking interest in the negative effects illegal immigration has had on the state. Areas of southern Arizona have been designated as unsafe for citizens because of violence associated with drug and human smuggling cartels, he said.
McCain invited President Obama to visit the Arizona/Mexico border to see the situation firsthand.
“A whole bunch of people went to Copenhagen for climate change, and they did not come down to our own border,” he said.
Furthermore, a rising tide of violence along the Mexican side of the border has gone under reported, he said. McCain identified Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the leaders of the Sinaloa drug cartel, as being responsible for much of the bloodshed.
The solution, he said, is to secure the border by increasing surveillance, boosting the National Guard presence there and erecting security fences, and to punish employers who hire undocumented workers. Once that’s done, the country can deal with the millions of illegal immigrants who already live here, McCain said.
Some audience members remained unconvinced. Area resident Gayla Franks said she thought McCain evaded the question of amnesty.
“I came in here thinking he would tell me something that would make me lean towards voting for him, but he didn’t do that,” Franks said.
The wide-ranging town hall discussion touched on a number of timely events, from the recent appointment of Gen. David Patraeus – whom McCain described as “one of the greatest generals in history” – in Afghanistan, to the hearings for Elena Kagan, Obama’s choice to be the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
McCain said he plans to oppose Kagan’s nomination because of her opposition to military recruiters at Harvard. McCain accused Kagan of defying a law that obligates universities to accept military recruiters if the school accepts public funding.
“That is reprehensible. She’s not entitled to prevent military recruiters from talking to students and telling them about the virtue of defending their country,” he said.
On the economy, McCain said the hundreds of billions of dollars the federal government has spent on stimulus have not brought the country out of stagnation or reduced unemployment. The solution, he said, is to cut taxes to attract foreign companies and to keep U.S. companies from leaving.
Concerning Afghanistan, McCain said Obama has been “at best ambivalent” about his commitment to victory.
“We cannot allow Afghanistan to return to being a base of attacks on America,” McCain said.
He said the president’s announcement that American troops will begin pulling out next year was a “terrible mistake.” Taliban insurgents have been threatening potential U.S. allies among the Afghan factions, saying that after the Americans leave, those who cooperated with the U.S. will be beheaded, McCain said.
“I am doubtful that we can succeed in the long run if we are telling the enemy that we are leaving next year,” he said. “In warfare, you don’t tell the enemy when you’re leaving.”
American casualties likely will increase as the military pushes its fight against the Taliban in coming months into the country’s southeastern Kandahar area, he said.
“Throughout history, whoever controls Kandahar controls the region,” McCain said.
Back at home, he said Obama’s decision to circumvent the Senate’s confirmation process in his recess appointment of Donald Berwick – who McCain described as an advocate of “socialized medicine” – to oversee the Medicare/Medicaid system was an abuse of power.
McCain said he believes Republicans will win enough seats in November to overturn the ambitious national health care reform plan, which Congress passed earlier this year.
“After the elections this year, I am confident that we can repeal and replace,” he said.
Audience member Jacqueline Anderson, an Ahwatukee Foothills Republican, said McCain had persuaded her.
“At this point, I feel very strongly in favor of McCain,” she said.