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JOAN VENNOCHI

McCain stands strong on immigration reform

Can a presidential candidate with unpopular convictions win his party’s nomination? "You really have to stand for what you believe in," says Arizona Senator John McCain. Otherwise, "What’s the point of winning?"

In that spirit, McCain continues to speak out in favor of the very controversial immigration bill that could be back for consideration before Congress takes a July 4 recess.

"I am guardedly optimistic we can pass it," said McCain. He describes the country’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants as a national security issue, a humanitarian issue and at heart, an issue about "what kind of nation we are ... we don’t have 12 million pairs of handcuffs."

But the hostility to this proposal is strong, especially from within the GOP base, and McCain is feeling it in the most personal way. Walking into a fundraiser the other night, he said he was confronted by female protesters carrying signs that put together two words "McCain" and "traitor."

"What is that would make these women ... assume I’m a traitor?" he asked.

It’s sad, isn’t it, that the debate over immigration in this nation of immigrants has gotten so ugly?

A man like McCain, who served his country in Vietnam and faced down the enemy as a prisoner of war, is certainly no traitor.

And he may never be the Republican presidential nominee, either. That could be the price of standing for what he believes in.

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