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McCain, Kolbe address border immigration issues

XAVIER ZARAGOZA / The Douglas Daily Dispatch / November 29, 2000

On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain and Congressman Jim Kolbe told The Daily Dispatch they were opposed to illegal immigration.

"Every nation has the obligation to control its borders," McCain said.

"But we have to recognize that as long as people can't find jobs in towns and villages they will go to places where they can feed themselves.

"So we will have this crushing problem until the Mexican, Central American and Latin American economies are restored or thriving," McCain said.

But with Vicente Fox taking over the Mexican presidency, both Kolbe and McCain are optimistic about fundamental changes in Mexico.

"With the new Mexican president you're going to see an increase in economic activity and that's going to be good news," McCain said.

McCain said he agreed with Fox that there should one day be open borders, but the issue of drugs needed to be addressed first.

Kolbe said he was in favor of expanding immigration.

"I take a more Libertarian view toward immigration than most of my colleagues." Kolbe said. "I believe that immigration is the lifeblood of this county.

Kolbe cited the wave of South Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians as a part of a great wave of migrants that have integrated into the country. As a result, Kolbe said he is in favor of increasing immigration and not reducing it, he said.

McCain said he also favored an increase in legal immigration.

Kolbe and McCain also favored expanding the guest-worker program. McCain said there was an expansion of visas for high tech workers but not many for other economic sectors.

"I've talked to Hispanic small business people and they can't find enough people to work for them," McCain said.

Kolbe said he favored a change in the guest worker program that would go beyond the agriculture industry and go into other areas such as the hospitality industry.

"But it's hard to get support from outside the immediate border states," Kolbe said. "Congressmen in Kentucky or Ohio know they have these people working in their hotels or plants but they don't want to deal with it."

Border states are the ones who bear the burden of illegal immigration. Kolbe said he has advocated a commission that would look into temporary labor issues.

McCain said he plans to spend more time in Arizona. He had visited Nogales, Ariz., and planned to go to Yuma. In the near future he plans to visit Bisbee and Tombstone.

"But one of the issues I need to focus on is border issues," McCain said.

McCain said that for the first time that anyone can remember "you're going to have a president, in the case of George W. Bush, who understands these (border) issues. You can question his credentials on foreign policy. There is no question in his relationship with Mexico and these issues.

"So I think you are going to see an administration that is going to pay a whole lot of attention to border issues than anytime in the past."