McCain: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Must Include Path To Citizenship

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) confirmed on Sunday morning that he that he and a bipartisan group of senators will roll out a comprehensive immigration reform effort in Congress. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” McCain, who has previously fluctuated on his support of a full path to citizenship, stressed that any reform bill must include such a measure, and that the effort must be done in one piece of all-encompassing legislation.

His support for the bill is a pivot from earlier comments that citizenship for undocumented immigrants would be “amnesty.” But McCain defended his shift by pointing out how citizenship for Latinos would benefit the Republican party, and by questioning what would otherwise happen to those undocumented people “living in the shadows”:

MARTHA RADDATZ (HOST): Citizenship is obviously the most controversial aspect for some of your Republican colleagues, and you’ve gone back and forth. In 2005 you were for it. By 2010 you wanted border security first and, quote, certainly no amnesty, so you’re solidly behind a pathway to citizenship. How do you convince some of those Republicans who are not behind it?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I’ve always been for border security. I mean, there are citizens in my state who do not live in a secure environment.[…]

RADDATZ: So how do you convince Republicans about the path to citizenship?

MCCAIN: Well, look, I’ll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that. Second of all, we can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status. We cannot forever have children who were brought here by their parents when they were small children to live in the shadows, as well. So I think the time is right.

McCain said that Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and others will be working on the legislation. The exact outline of what will be in the bill is unclear, but McCain said the Senators will announce its key “principles” this week.


President Obama, for his part, will be traveling to Las Vegas on Tuesday to announce his own push for immigration reform. His plan will follow an immigration reform blueprint the administration released last year. It includes a path to citizenship, and Obama has stressed that a comprehensive immigration bill will be “a top priority” in his second term.