An article in Friday’s New York Times talked about how Senator McCain has become more conservative on immigration.

“…As he left Iowa, Mr. McCain said he was reconsidering his views on how…immigration law might be changed. He said he was open to legislation that would require people who came to the United States illegally to return home before applying for citizenship, a measure proposed by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. Mr. McCain has previously favored legislation that would allow most illegal immigrants to become citizens without leaving the country.

Beyond whatever influence it has as the state whose caucuses kick off the presidential nominating contest, Iowa has become something of a laboratory for the politics of immigration. Not only is it a place where industries like meatpacking rely heavily on immigrant workers and where a once relatively homogenous population is confronting an influx of Hispanic residents, but the presidential candidates who are criss-crossing the state are also providing forums for Iowans to express their views and influence national policy.

…Mr. McCain, for example, appeared to distance himself from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat with whom he formed an alliance last year on an immigration bill that stalled in Congress.

‘What I’ve tried to point out is we couldn’t pass the legislation,’ Mr. McCain said. ‘So we have to change the legislation so it can pass. And I’ve been working with Senator Kennedy, but we’ve also been working with additional senators, additional House members.’

Mr. McCain focused instead on the proposal by Mr. Pence, a conservative. ‘Pence has this touchback proposal,’ Mr. McCain said at a news conference. ‘I said hey, let’s consider that if that’s a way we can get some stuff.’

Mr. McCain’s aides said his identification with Mr. Kennedy accounted for much of his political problem on the issue with conservatives. One of his rivals for the nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, has taken to attacking what he calls the McCain-Kennedy bill.

Mr. McCain has found himself particularly identified with this battle in no small part because he is from a border state that is deeply divided over immigration. The issue is not likely to recede, regardless of the outcome of the debate in Washington: The Republican field of presidential candidates includes Representative Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who has based his campaign on an anti-immigration message and who will almost certainly participate in Republican presidential debates starting this spring.”

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