Advocates for immigration reform are backing Barack Obama's claim that John McCain retreated from his support of a sweeping immigration bill in order to court the conservative wing of his primary during the presidential primary.
"From my point of view, he's taken two steps back...in order to be viable in the primary," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a group pushing immigration reform.
They also noted that Obama played a "significant role" in pushing immigration reform, despite the hammering he took last week from Florida Republicans Sen. Mel Martinez and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who on McCain campaign conference calls accused Obama of being "AWOL" during deliberations.
One immigration advocate said McCain deserves credit for defying his party as he pushed for citizenship for illegal immigrants, but that advocates want him to continue challenging his party -- and not only push for a border-security-first bill.
"The concern is whether or not he can stand up to his party, whether he can lead his party to accomplish reform," said Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the office of research, advocacy and legislation at the National Council of La Raza. "People want to know, even if Senator McCain is absolutely where we need him to be, whether he can deliver his party."