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McCain touts bill on immigration at Alabama events

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — Republican presidential candidate John McCain, campaigning in Alabama on Friday, said he needs to do more salesmanship within his own party for a bipartisan immigration bill that could get another chance in the Senate.

Both of Alabama's Republican senators have opposed the legislation, with Sen. Jeff Sessions being out front in the fight against the bill.

McCain, the only Republican presidential candidate to side with President Bush in support of the bill, said "we need to do a little more salesmanship" among the Republican Party. But he said the Senate will be granting "defacto amnesty" to 12 million illegal immigrants if it doesn't act.

"We have to act to secure the border and account for these 12 million people who are here in this country illegally," he said while attending a state convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Later, speaking at a state Republican Party dinner, McCain began the salesmanship by encouraging Republicans to have a respectful dialogue "rather than accuse each other of a lack of patriotism."

The bill, which would strengthen border security before opening a path to legal status for illegal immigrants already in the country, appeared dead last week when it failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote. But Senate leaders said Thursday it could come up again as soon as next week.

"I support the president of the United States in trying to come up with a resolution to this issue and I think we have a good proposal," McCain said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting.

McCain also stood with the president on the troop surge in the war in Iraq.

"We've seen some progress in Iraq," McCain said, but he said more time is needed to prove the strategy will work.

Wayne Dial, who, like McCain, served in the Vietnam War, said he's still undecided about a candidate, but he likes McCain's position on the war.

"I'm convinced if we don't fight the war on terrorism on their territory, we are going to fight it here," the Air Force retiree from Talladega said.

Another Vietnam veteran, Air Force retiree Roy Coulter of Athens, said McCain's views on immigration aren't strong enough.

"As much as I like Senator McCain and him being a veteran, I think he's a little outdated," Coulter said.

This is McCain's fourth trip to Alabama this year, more than any other presidential candidate.

"Alabama is the most patriotic state. Alabama's Guard and young people are serving in the military in large numbers. Alabama, in my view, is the strength of the Republican Party, as well," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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