In the last ten years McCain has gone from being one of the most visible Republican leaders advocating humane and comprehensive immigration reform to one of its most aggressive hawks. Listen to the core policy proposals McCain has pushed over the years, and there are three main pillars he’s always kept in steady rotation: legalization for the undocumented population currently in the country; some kind of guest worker program; and strict border enforcement. For immigration rights advocates these reforms are not interchangeable, but they are nevertheless cornerstones of McCain’s immigration platform. The policies he chooses to elevate, or discard, depend a lot on the political moment. McCain was a cosponsor in 2003, 2005 and 2007 of the DREAM Act. McCain once defended undocumented immigrants’ right to adjust their status and claim Social Security. It’d be unthinkable for McCain to publicly defend any of these today.
Flip-flopping is nothing new—especially where John McCain is concerned—and cataloging public officials’ shifting stances on issues is something of a favorite media pastime. But McCain’s relinquishing his principles feels especially disingenuous and opportunistic, and therefore that much more unforgivable.