Republican presidential candidate John McCain defended his stance on comprehensive immigration reform Tuesday and said that, if elected to the White House in November, he will make the U.S. borders secure within a short period of time.
Speaking on CBS’ “Early Show,” McCain said Americans want the confidence that its borders be secured first before supporting a humane and compassionate approach to temporary worker programs and comprehensive immigration reform.
“We are moving forward right now with securing our borders,” McCain said.
When asked if the daunting task could be accomplished within a two-year period, McCain assured, “It will be secure in a very relatively short period of time.”
McCain, the senator from the border state of Arizona, has been criticized recently for flip-flopping on comprehensive immigration reform measures he once championed. He tried twice before to push a reform bill he sponsored through Congress, but now as the GOP candidate for president admits he would not vote immigration reform if it came up today.
Once the borders are secure, McCain said, the issue can be revisited.
“The point is not that I would vote or not vote for it, the point is it failed twice,” McCain said. “Senator Kennedy and I – [along with] a group of senators – brought it up twice, and it failed twice. The American people didn’t support it, and I still believe that we reflect the views of the majority.
McCain has been accused by his detractors – as well as by presidential rival Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. – of emphasizing border security over a path of citizenship for undocumented immigrants because he no longer could risk alienating the GOP’s conservative base once he secured his party’s nomination.
“As soon as we failed for the second time, I led the issue,” McCain fired back. “I didn’t have to do this. I knew that it was going to hurt me in my quest for the nomination of my party because it was not popular with a lot of the base of my party. But [I did it] because I put my country first. I always put my country first.”
By contrast, “Senator Obama had a choice of doing the bidding of the labor unions or putting his country first. He choose the special interests," McCain said. "Senator Obama supported measures that would have killed the comprehensive approach.”
In response to whether U.S. citizens feel undocumented workers are taking away American jobs, McCain said, “I agree, but I would also point out that there are jobs that, it is clear, still need to be filled.”
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