This morning, Meet the Press host David Gregory noted that guest and Arizona senatorial candidate J.D. Hayworth was once a supporter of a path to citizenship and guest worker program. Given that Hayworth has framed his campaign around attacking opponent Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for flip-flopping from a pro-immigration reform stance to a restrictionist border hawk, Gregory asked Hayworth to define what really makes him any different. Hayworth attributed his change of heart to 9/11:
GREGORY: Going back to 2001, you actually believed in a guest worker program. You believed in a path towards citizenship which you now call amnesty. Sen. McCain was a champion of comprehensive reform with Sen. Kennedy. Back during the Bush administration. […] How does your position really differ from him?
HAYWORTH: Well it differs profoundly because what happened on 9/11 helped the scales fall from my eyes. I understand that national security is border security. And I understand that we must enforce the laws.
However, the anti-immigrant group, NumbersUSA tracks Hayworth’s pro-immigration votes during his term in the House of Representatives as going back to as late as 2005, when he voted against H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act — which ultimately passed. In fact, many of Hayworth’s efforts and ire have focused more on immigration from Latin American countries than in stopping terrorists from entering the country. In 2006, Hayworth proposed a three-year ban on legal immigration from Mexico. In an op-ed published the same year, Hayworth conflated the two, stating, “How different are these radical Islamists from the Mexican politicians who push for a Mexico without borders and undermine our efforts at assimilation?”
Hayworth claims 9/11 was an eye-opener for him on immigration, but conservative guru Linda Chavez has a different take. “Hayworth, a six-term congressman, once favored a guest worker program but flip-flopped when he sensed bashing immigrants was a surer ticket to re-election,” wrote Chavez. According to Chavez, the strategy failed miserably for Hayworth, who “lost handily” to a more moderate candidate in 2006.