“The 30 percent view [illegal immigration] as the compelling and only and most emotional issue to them,” McCain said. “They’re the ones who come to my town hall meetings and call me Amnesty John.”
McCain was one of the “Gang of Eight” in the Senate to sponsor the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Bill, or S.744. The Senate passed the bill – which called for a pathway to citizenship for certain illegal aliens – in June 2013, but the House has not taken it up or alternative immigration legislation this term.
One of the attendees at the conference – which focused on advocating for migrants and refuges, even those in the country illegally – asked McCain how they could get immigration legislation efforts “back on track” in Congress.
“I think first we have to get this situation resolved as quickly as possible,” McCain said, referring to the more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America who have streamed across the U.S. border with Mexico in recent months. “And then I think – to be very candid with you – we have to activate those people politically that support comprehensive immigration reform.
“My friends, even in my home state of Arizona, 70 percent of my constituents support comprehensive immigration reform,” McCain said. “The entire business community in Arizona does, but the 30 percent view that as the compelling and only and most emotional issue to them,” McCain said.
“They’re the ones who come to my town hall meetings and call me Amnesty John,” he added.
But while many conservatives have criticized McCain for his pro-amnesty stance in the Senate, at the conference McCain repeatedly called for securing the border.
“I will support many things, but I will not support an unending flow of people coming across our border, and I’m sure that there are compelling cases,” McCain said. “I’m sure that there are threats, but to have an open border is not something my constituents will stand for, and I have to represent them as well, and I happen to agree with them.”