Apr 08 2008

Shelby: Hopefuls ‘soft’ on immigration

Sand Mountain Reporter

By David Clemons

With three senators vying to be the next president, Richard Shelby has a unique perspective on the next White House occupant.

Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, told a Marshall County crowd they shouldn’t expect the next president to take a hard line on immigration.

“Our president, President Bush, he’s soft on immigration,” Shelby said. “What I fear is Senator (John) McCain is soft on immigration. So is Senator (Hillary) Clinton. So is Senator (Barack) Obama.”

Shelby didn’t suggest any new legislation dealing with immigration on Capitol Hill. However, he warned that America has fought this battle before. Alabama’s senior senator was a member of the House in 1986 when what he termed a “so-called reform bill” was passed.

At the time, he said, there were 5 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Shelby said he was opposed to amnesty because they broke the law.

“We’re asking for trouble,” he said. “Where are we going to be in 20 more years? We’ll have 30 million illegal immigrants.”

Shelby said the fact a senator is almost certain to be the next president is rare. The last sitting senator elected president was John F. Kennedy in 1960.

That doesn’t mean few haven’t tried.

“I sit with a lot of people who ran for president, and they’re still there” in the Senate, Shelby said.

Shelby said he wasn’t sure how the tight Democratic race between Clinton, of New York, and Obama, of Illinois, would play out.

“It’s good for the media, fighting all the way to the convention,” he said.

Shelby hopes McCain, the Arizona senator who is the presumptive Republican nominee, will select a “younger, dynamic” running mate.

McCain, 71, would be the oldest man to begin a term as president if elected.

Shelby’s appearance at Percasso’s in Northtown Guntersville was one stop on his annual tour of the 67 Alabama counties.

He provided commentary on several hot topics, including:

• The Economy. Shelby noted there are some problems but spoke highly of Alabama’s economy.

“Our state is doing better than the national average,” he said. “I hope it stays that way.”

Shelby said he didn’t support the economic stimulus plan that will send $600 checks to many Americans later this year.

Instead, he said Americans can strengthen the dollar by cutting the dependence on foreign oil and by Congress living within its means.

He said the stimulus package will add to America’s debt.

• War. Shelby said soldiers’ morale is “good” despite the fact Iraq is a different type of place.

“Iraq’s not ever going to be like Guntersville where you walk down the street,” he said.

Shelby believes the Iraq war has taught lessons for future conflicts.

“We had great military success there five years ago … but we were not ready for the asymmetric war, the guerrilla war,” he said.

Later, he said, “If we get in conflicts in the future, we ought to think it out. If we go into somewhere, we ought to go in with overwhelming force.”

He warned that the Taliban is “picking up some” in Afghanistan.

• Energy: “We live in a challenging world,” Shelby said, “but I believe as a nation, our No. 1 problem is energy.”

He said ethanol is not the solution for America’s energy problems.

“The idea of ethanol sounds good, but without the subsidies, I’m not sure it works,” he said.

• Taxes: With tax returns due one week from today, Shelby knew taxes were on the minds of Marshall County residents.

The senator said he wishes the Constitution never had been amended to allow for the taxation of incomes.