During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) responded to critics of the bipartisan immigration principles developed by eight senators and pushed back against conservatives who argue that undocumented immigrants should not be granted a legal status until the borders are completely secure.
Under the bipartisan agreement, unauthorized immigrants who pass a background check can qualify for probationary status as soon as reform becomes law, but can only achieve permanent legal status (and eventual citizenship) once the borders are certified as secure by the Department of Homeland Security. McCain explained that the principles he helped develop are fair and would require immigrants to pay substantial fines and back taxes if they want to attain legal status:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Under your plan, though [undocumented immigrants] wouldn’t get the path to citizenship until you got the border enforcement certification, they would almost immediately gate what is called “probationary legal status” which means they can continue to live in this country legally. Some of your critics on the right are saying that is amnesty.
McCAIN: Well, I don’t think it is amnesty to start with. Second of all, what do you want to do with them? That is the question in response and third of all, it is a tough path to citizenship, you have to pay back tax and learn English and have to have a clear record and get to the back of the line behind to the people who have come here legally or waiting legally. So, i just reject that.
Conservative pundits like Laura Ingraham and Charles Krauthammer, and conservative members of the House have led the charge in demanding that the borders be secured before unauthorized immigrants can come out of the shadows and work legally. However, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — on of the leaders of the group of eigh — explained, doing so would only encourage a rush of immigration, as more will try to come into the country under the deadline.