At a time when some House Republicans have expressed public opposition to the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill, Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said Tuesday that they remain optimistic that the House will consider an immigration reform bill that includes citizenship. Reminding an audience at a town hall Tuesday that the Senate measure was able to pass through a bipartisan compromise, they remained guardedly hopeful that a similar compromise that includes a pathway to citizenship could emerge in the House.
McCain told a reporter who asked whether there could be any “wiggle room” in considering citizenship for some, but not for the majority of undocumented population:
First of all, I don’t accept your principle. Our vice presidential candidate in the last candidate Paul Ryan was fully on board. We’ve talked to Congressman Goodlatte (R-VA), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who said that he’d maybe want to move some of these things through one by one. I don’t accept your premise that the House of Representatives will absolutely reject a path to citizenship. I just don’t accept that. I think we will know more in two or three months.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a resolution in recent weeks that rejects a path to citizenship, but provides renewable work permits. Other House leadership members have similarly stepped away from supporting citizenship. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said during an Univision radio interview on Tuesday that he would not support a “special pathway” to citizenship. “There is no permanent underclass,” he said, “there is no distinction other than to say people who enter here unlawfully will not get an advantage over people who have lawfully immigrated.”
A majority of Arizona residents, who by virtue of being border state residents have the best insight on the immigration debate, support citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And constituent voters who live in swing district likewise want Republicans to help pass reform.
McCain and Flake also appealed to compassion by dismissing rumors about immigrants. Some key highlights:
MCCAIN: There are very few people outside of you, Mark, that have not violated the law at one time or another… People who violated the law pay a fine. This is a ten year path to a green card… this is an enormous long path to achieve citizenship as part of this bill. I would argue that there’s a very heavy penalty that is being paid. And yes, they entered this country illegally, but all of us should have a chance at redemption.”
FLAKE: Amnesty would be an unconditional pardon for a breach of law. We’re not pardoning anyone here. There are fines and fees and penalties and a probationary process that they have to wait.