The bill was also supported by Sen. Ted Kennedy. It would have increased border enforcement and created a guest-worker program. It also included The DREAM Act, which would open citizenship to illegal immigrants who go to college or serve in the military.
Anti-illegal immigration activists sent the Senate and Congress a deluge of mail and phone calls against the bill, which was eventually struck down.
McCain’s support of the bill has earned him a black mark among the border enforcement crowd.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, said this means activists will have to stick to their current tactics. He said one tactic is to support more anti-illegal candidates for Congress and in local governments.
“We will have a new president, and the worst-case scenario is that we have a Hillary or Obama and that we have zero impact on them,” Rohrabacher said.
Rohrabacher compared McCain’s immigration stance to President Bush’s.
“A McCain presidency means that we have a president like the one we have now.”
Many anti-illegal immigration activists supported the campaigns of Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine). Tancredo dropped out of the race in December, and Hunter followed suit a month later.
This led many former supporters to support Ron Paul.
Minuteman Project Founder Jim Gilchrist split with many in the movement to support Mike Huckabee.
Rohrabacher said he sees Huckabee’s bid for president as futile now that McCain has practically cinched the Republican presidential nomination.
“I think that Huckabee must be talking to the angels personally if he believes he has a chance,” Rohrabacher said.