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Both candidates supported an immigration measure that called for a path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, who hail mostly from Mexico and Central America. The bill died in the Senate last year.

Mr. McCain since has said he cannot support citizenship for illegal immigrants until the American public is convinced that the border is secure. In the meantime, he says, the government must focus on enforcing existing immigration laws.

Mr. Obama also has listed several “civil rights” issues that he would tackle if elected president, including employment inequities among minorities and a ban on racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies.

“We shouldn’t ignore that race continues to matter,” Mr. Obama wrote on a questionnaire given to presidential candidates by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “To suggest that our racial attitudes play no part in the socio-economic disparities that we often observe turns a blind eye to both our history and our experience - and relieves us of the responsibility to make things right.”

He supports the Fair Pay Act, which would reverse a Supreme Court decision that said a lawsuit charging wage discrimination had to be filed within 180 days of hiring.

The proposed legislation, which failed to advance in the Senate this year, would allow a “rolling” statute of limitations, with every new paycheck a new “Day One” because it represents a new act of discrimination, whether on the basis of race or other features such as sex or religion. It also would allow for class-action lawsuits to be filed and provides for compensatory and punitive damages.

Mr. McCain opposes the Fair Pay Act, saying it “opens us up for lawsuits, for all kinds of problems and difficulties.”

On the hot-button issue of race-based affirmative action, the candidates generally hold party-line positions. Mr. McCain says he opposes hiring and school admission policies that include racial quotas, while Mr. Obama supports maintaining affirmative action programs.

Mr. McCain this summer endorsed a proposed a ballot initiative against affirmative action in his home state of Arizona backed by anti-quota crusader Ward Connerly. Ten years earlier, the senator opposed an Arizona initiative to end racial quotas on the ground that it was “divisive.” This tougher stance on affirmative action scored points among his party’s conservative voters, who long have viewed the senator’s maverick nature with suspicion.

“The playing field is not level for everyone, but there are people of all colors and all groups at both ends of that field,” Mr. McCain wrote in the NAACP questionnaire. “The affirmative action remedies designed forty years ago should be re-examined.”

Mr. Obama has said that although race-based affirmative action programs are still needed, they are only a temporary solution to help solve the improving but lingering problem of racial inequality in the United States. He also has suggested the development of income-based affirmative action programs.

Mr. Obama also has suggested minority groups must look beyond the government and take responsibility themselves for helping improve their lot.

The senator, while addressing the NAACP’s annual conference in July in Cincinnati, challenged blacks to “demand more from ourselves.”

“In the end, it doesn’t matter how much money we invest in our communities … or how many government programs we launch,” he said. “None of it will make any difference if we don’t seize more responsibility in our own lives.”

Mr. Obama said parents should provide guidance to their children by “turning off the TV, and putting away the video games.”

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