- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

The leading Democratic candidate in Maryland’s U.S. Senate race is calling for stricter border security, angering immigrant advocates and surprising Republicans.

“There’s some areas I think we all agree on … and that is our borders need to be borders,” Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin told about two dozen black business owners in Baltimore Tuesday. “We need to know who comes into America. We need to know that for our security.”

Mr. Cardin, who previously had talked very little about immigration reform, said it is “wrong” for the United States not to enforce its laws that bar employers from hiring illegal aliens. He added that he opposes “what has been traditionally defined as amnesty.”

“We need to make sure that, whatever we do, we protect our borders,” said Mr. Cardin, who is seeking to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat.

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane expressed surprise over Mr. Cardin’s comments, saying the 10-term congressman’s position “puts him to the right of President Bush” on immigration reform.

“To me, it’s an odd thing to come out and say,” Mr. Kane said. “It’s the first that you have heard Democrats speak to it. Democrats are not usually one for strong immigration reform.”

Kim Propeack, policy director for the immigrant advocacy group CASA of Maryland, criticized Mr. Cardin’s remarks.

“A border enforcement policy has been proven not to work, and any candidate who has a border enforcement-first policy and believes that’s sellable to voters is way off track,” Miss Propeack said.

Mr. Bush and many congressional Republicans have pushed for a guest-worker program as a top priority, while also calling for stronger border protection.

Other Republicans, led by Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, have lobbied for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and penalizing all illegal aliens.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican running for the Senate, said one of the country’s top priorities is to secure its borders.

“Our nation deserves secure borders, and every Marylander deserves secure borders,” Mr. Steele said. “Sadly, the partisan gamesmanship of Washington insiders has halted real progress on immigration reform in our country.”

Former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Kweisi Mfume, Mr. Cardin’s challenger in the Democratic primary, has been outspoken in his support of “an earned path to citizenship for people that are already in this country,” a spokesman said.

Derek Walker, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said the party has not taken a position on the issue.

“This is a point of consideration where both parties have members with different perspectives on the matter,” he said. “The party doesn’t take positions, especially when it’s a matter of different federal legislation that’s been proposed.”

But Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told reporters Wednesday that “the first thing we want is tough border control.”

Miss Propeack said Mr. Cardin and Mr. Dean are “reading the political landscape very, very wrong.”

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