McCain: Obama’s Immigration Plan a No-go Without Tougher Border Security

Tuesday, 29 Jan 2013 06:10 PM

By Todd Beamon and Kathleen Walter

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Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona tells Newsmax TV that Republicans will not support President Barack Obama’s immigration reform plan because it lacks provisions for stronger border security.

“I would hope that the president at the end of the day would understand that there are, in the southern part of my state, people who do not live in a secure environment. He does,” McCain, who was among the eight bipartisan senators who introduced their own immigration plan on Monday, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

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“In southern Arizona, many ranchers and their families have drug-cartel members cross their property every night. They’re coyotes that bring people across. Wildlife refuges have been destroyed.

“I would hope the president would understand that we have to get our borders secure — and we have made improvements,” McCain added. “There have been significant improvements. We just need to do some more.”

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On Tuesday in Las Vegas, Obama presented his blueprint for comprehensive reform — declaring that “now is the time” to fix the nation’s broken immigration laws. He sounded many of the themes included in the senators’ plan, including the passing of criminal and national security background checks, paying fees and penalties — as well as back taxes.

“We all agree that these men and women have to earn their way to citizenship,” Obama said. “But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must make clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship.”

The remark was an apparent reference to the Senate’s plan, which ties a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants to stronger border enforcement. The White House has said that Obama would not support such a caveat.

The president did, however, commend the “Gang of Eight” senators — Republican Marco Rubio of Florida and Democrat Chuck Schumer among them — for their efforts. “Congress is showing a genuine desire to get this done soon.”

But if congressional legislators do not act “in a timely fashion,” Obama warned, “I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.”

The White House also said earlier on Tuesday that Obama’s plan should recognize gay couples where one partner is American and another is not.

The president did not mention this at the Las Vegas event, but McCain told CBS that it was a “red flag” in the immigration-reform debate.

He reiterated that position to Newsmax.

“I’ll have to see what his proposal is on that before I make a judgment and exactly how they’re going to frame that proposal.”

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Newsmax that he was not surprised that Obama’s plan would include less border security.

“I expected the president’s to [have] — I don’ t know exactly what word to use — less emphasis on border security than we have insisted upon. We’re in the beginning of a process, and I’m still hopeful that we can come to an agreement.”

The retired Navy captain and former Vietnam War prisoner readily acknowledged that tough battles are ahead in Congress on immigration reform, regardless of whose vision makes it to a chamber vote.

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“Obviously, there are pitfalls. There’s all kinds of things that need to be decided. But the mood of the country is that they’d like to see this issue resolved in a fair and equitable fashion — including being fair to the people who have come here legally. You don’t want to treat them unfairly.”

McCain also was clear: The senators’ plan is not about amnesty.

“It depends on your definition. We think we have pretty tough proposals,” he said. “You have to pay back taxes. You have to qualify by studying English. You have to get behind all of those who came to this country legally. That’s only fair.

“There are some other tough provisions that we think are pretty difficult and that do not meet the dictionary definition of amnesty.”

Because Arizona is a border state, the idea of increased enforcement in the Senate plan has strong support throughout the Grand Canyon State, McCain said.

“The business community in Arizona has rallied behind us — and strongly. There are certainly divided opinions in my home state — and, again, since Arizona is the major drug-trafficking route from Mexico into the United States, obviously they’re concerned about border security.

“They’re concerned about the lack of security in their lives, but they believe that we shouldn’t have 11 million people living in the shadows forever,” he said.

And eventually making those citizens legal will most benefit the Republican Party.

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“Our Hispanic citizens tend towards Republicans — and they believe in lower taxes, less regulations, small business, pro-life, significant service in the military. We know that we have to do our best to attract all voters in all sectors — young people, men, women, older Americans — and the Hispanic vote is becoming a bigger and bigger portion of the electorate. We understand that.”

Also in his wide-ranging Newsmax interview, McCain said he supported women in combat as long as training standards are not relaxed, particularly for such volunteer elite groups as the Navy SEALS, and attacked President Obama for his lack of leadership on Syria and Iran.

Editor's Note: Read Other Excerpts of the Newsmax Interview With John McCain

McCain: US Ineffective in Stopping a Nuclear Iran



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