Republican presidential candidate John McCain continues to clarify his position on illegal immigration as the primary season closes and the candidates position themselves for the general election in the fall. McCain has been slowly reviving the notion of “comprehensive immigration reform” in speeches before various groups.

The problem “comprehensive” reform has posed to many Americans is that it posits a path to citizenship for people who are currently in the United States illegally, alongside a supposed array of immigration enforcement measures. Enforcement, however, has largely never taken place. It has been a chimera. This failure was made most evident before the 2006 elections when the Congress passed a law requiring 800 miles of fence on the U.S. – Mexico border, legislation which was signed into law by president Bush. But the fence was never built.

Those who are skeptical of “comprehensive immigration reform” believe that the amnesty portion of the program will definitely be enacted, while the enforcement measures will continue to be empty promises.

Amnesty for those who have jumped the border will send the signal that U.S. immigration enforcement is a joke, and will encourage more border jumpers. Following the 1986 amnesty, what was supposed to be leniency for no more than 3 million illegals resulted in over 20 million illegal aliens in the U.S. today. Those who oppose “comprehensive immigration reform” believe that giving a pass to those in this country illegally will result in tens of millions more illegals coming across our southern border.

On top of that, current U.S. immigration policy is geared towards family reunification and not attracting immigrants with needed skills. “Comprehensive” reform therefore promises millions of new unskilled, undereducated arrivals in the U.S. This is a sure formula for importing many people who will draw disproportionally on government benefits and impose a net cost on U.S. taxpayers.

It means radically increasing the size of the U.S. underclass, essentially relieving Latin American countries of their poorest citizens and putting those people on the U.S. dole. This provides a safety valve for corrupt oligarchic countries south of here, and shifts the public cost to working Americans. We end up bailing out the upper classes in Mexico and other nations to the south.

John McCain as quoted in today’s New York Times:

“Senator Kennedy and I tried very hard to get immigration reform, a comprehensive plan, through the Congress of the United States,” he said. “It is a federal responsibility and because of our failure as a federal obligation, we’re seeing all these various conflicts and problems throughout our nation as different towns, cities, counties, whatever they are, implement different policies and different programs which makes things even worse and even more confusing.”

He added: “I believe we have to secure our borders, and I think most Americans agree with that, because it’s a matter of national security. But we must enact comprehensive immigration reform. We must make it a top agenda item if we don’t do it before, and we probably won’t, a little straight talk, as of January 2009.”

Mr. McCain asked others on the panels for suggestions about how to “better mobilize American public opinion” behind the notion of comprehensive immigration reform.

It is an open question whether Mr. McCain will be able to continue to push for amnesty for illegal aliens while so many Americans are aware how difficult it is for those who are following legal channels to immigrate to the U.S.

Granting amnesty to illegals will allow the border crashers to jump in line ahead of the many millions of people who have been waiting to have their cases processed by the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. This policy of blatant injustice may turn out to be an Achilles heel for McCain’s general election campaign.

The prospect of “better mobilizing American public opinion” for the corrupt policy of “comprehensive” immigration reform suggests that McCain is seeking for a way to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.

For a Republican candidate, that is probably not the best way to signal a break with the past.

UPDATE: Ace and John Hawkins join our own Jacob with some very, very serious reservations about McCain.