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McCain Addresses Latino Voters in San Diego

Republican presidential candidate John McCain courted Latino voters yesterday, when he spoke to the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza in San Diego. Democratic presidential hopeful Bara

McCain Addresses Latino Voters in San Diego

Republican presidential candidate John McCain courted Latino voters yesterday, when he spoke to the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza in San Diego. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama addressed the group on Sunday. And like Obama, Senator McCain touched on the economy, education, and immigration reform. KPBS Reporter Kenny Goldberg has the story.  After some brief opening remarks, McCain jumped into the issue he said concerns Americans the most: the economy.

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McCain told La Raza the dream to build a better life begins with a job. He said small businesses, many owned by Latinos, create the majority of jobs. (Story continues below)

(Photo slideshow by Nathan Gibbs)

The Arizona senator said Barack Obama's approach of raising taxes would hurt that effort.

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<b> John McCain: </b> When you raise taxes in a bad economy you eliminate jobs. I'm not going to let that happen, I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can.

McCain made the audience a promise.

<b> McCain: </b> For those of you with children, I'll double the child deduction from $3500 to $7000 for every dependent in every family in America. 

McCain also spoke out about the importance of improving our education system, and giving parents more choices like charter schools.

<b> McCain: </b> You deserve a greater say in deciding how your kids are educated. And I am committed to making sure you do.

It wasn't until near the end of his speech that McCain talked about an issue that's especially sensitive in the Latino community: immigration reform.

McCain argued he took great political risks by sponsoring comprehensive reform in the Senate. He says the effort failed because Americans weren't convinced our borders would be made secure.

McCain says once that's done, we can deal with the people living here illegally.

<b> McCain: </b> When we have achieved our border security goal, we must enact and implement the other parts of practical, fair, and necessary immigration policy. We have economic and humanitarian responsibilities as well, and they require no less dedication from us in meeting them.

Barack Obama claims McCain abandoned his position on immigration during the Primary c38aign.

McCain denies it.

<b> McCain: </b> When I say I remain committed to fair, practical and comprehensive immigration reform, I mean it. I mean it.

Finally, McCain addressed the idea that in a sense, talking to a group of Latino activists was like venturing into hostile territory.

<b> McCain: </b> I know many of you are Democrats, regrettably. And many of you would usually, and many of you would usually vote for the presidential candidate of that party. I know I must work hard to win your votes. But you've always given me a respectful hearing, and I appreciate it. 

La Raza member Mario Enriquez didn't like what he heard.

<b> Mario Enriquez: </b> I don't agree with what he says, in terms of immigration, securing the borders, you know. He should be going after the drug people, not our people.

Los Angeles resident Ana Salcida said McCain made some good points.

<b> Ana Salcida: </b> I was really impressed. I feel he was sincere in the things he said. So, I'm hopeful, I'm hopeful that you know, we got a good race, we've got two amazing candidates, and I still have not decided. But, again, I was impressed with him.

John McCain has a long way to go if he wants to win the majority of Latino votes this November.

That's because the most recent Gallup Poll shows Barack Obama with a 30 point lead among Latinos.

Kenny Goldberg, KPBS News.