McCain Makes the Case for Immigration Reform

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Arizona Senator John McCain appeared before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society yesterday morning, delivering a speech in which he not only made the case for immigration reform in America, but called on Congress – and specifically, the House of Representatives — to move forward with a bill.

“I have not given up hope on this issue,” McCain stated. “And I will never give up hope on this issue. That’s because it’s an issue that won’t go away — not as long as there are 11 million people in the country living in the shadows. I’ve been, and will continue to be, very respectful of my Republican colleagues in the House, and I will never treat them in any other fashion. But I again continue to urge my Republican colleagues in the House to come up with something that we can negotiate on — whether it be piecemeal, whether it be the Dream Act, whatever it be. 

“It’s a very complex issue. But facts are complex things, as Ronald Reagan used to say. The Congressional Budget Office – which may be the only widely respected outfit in Washington today – said the Senate immigration bill would reduce the deficit by $850 billion over the next 20 years, and would add $300 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund over the next decade. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the reform bill would grow the U.S. economy by an addition of 4.8% over a 20-year period, reduce the cumulative Federal deficit by nearly $1.2 trillion over a 20-year period, and increase residential construction spending by an average of $68 billion per year over a 20-year period. For my home state of Arizona, the bill would boost Arizona’s economic output by $616 million and create 8,016 jobs within a year. The list goes on and on. 

“It’s the right thing to do for a whole lot of reasons, but also for our economy. We all know that our economy continues to stagger along. For Republicans who are dedicated to the proposition of growing our economy and creating jobs, this is one way to do it. And if anyone can tell me a way to address the issue of 11 million people living in this country illegally other than through a legislative fix, I’d like to hear it. There are not enough buses in America to round them all up and drive them back to wherever it is that they came from. I’m a proud Republican, I’m a Reagan Republican, and I was around with Ronald Reagan. And I can tell you that Ronald Reagan would want us to move forward with legislation.” 

McCain, who was elected to the Senate in 1986 after serving two terms in the House, is a longtime champion of immigration reform. He is also an architect of the reform bill that was approved by the Senate last summer. In addition to making the economic case for immigration reform in his remarks yesterday morning, he also said reform is needed from a national security perspective, too. 

“We don’t have a secure border,” the Arizona lawmaker stated. “We still have people who are brought over by coyotes and treated in the most unspeakable fashion. One thing that is very disturbing is that there are more and more of what the Immigration and Naturalization Service calls OTM – Other Than Mexican – who are coming across our border. In the Southeastern-most section – The Rio Grande section of our border – 82% of the people who were apprehended last year were OTM. That means they are coming from other parts of the world. Most of them are from Central American countries, but there are also a lot of people who are coming from other places. I cannot believe that every one of these people is coming across just to get a job. It’s a national security issue. 

“I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan many times, and I can assure you that we have the technology to secure our border. The bill that we passed in the Senate calls for an additional 20,000 border patrol agents and additional $8 billion in spending. And that money is not out of future appropriations. That money is out of the fees that are imposed on people who are on a path to citizenship. I’m convinced we can secure our border. The goal of the bill, as stated in the legislation, is 90% effective control of our border, and 100% situational awareness. We can do that. We have the technology that can do that. We developed radar in Iraq that not only detects people who are trying to move in different directions, but track them back to where they came from. We have that kind of technology.”

McCain concluded his remarks on immigration reform by making one other argument – one that was purely political, and aimed at the GOP. 

“As a proud Republican,” he declared, “I can assure you that we will never win another nationwide race unless we address this issue. That isn’t just John McCain’s gut reaction. Any pollster will tell you that that is the case because as it was with the Italians and the Irish and the Jews and the Poles and every other wave of immigrants that ever came to this country, that is their defining issue; certainly, the overwhelming majority of them. George W. Bush got 44% in 2004, I got 36% in 2008, and Mitt Romney got 27% in 2012. You can do the math. 

“I understand that there are many Republican districts which have very few Hispanics. I understand that, and that people are representing their district. But I can tell you that in Arizona, over 30% of our population is Hispanic and over 50% of the kids in school are Hispanic. You do the math. I believe that the Republican Party stands for everything that would appeal to a Hispanic voter — lower taxes, small business, pro-life, pro-military. I can go down the list. But we’re not going to have that communication unless we can get this issue behind us. I hope that we can, sometime in the next few months, see some kind of action. I speak for Republicans who negotiated our bill. It’s not engraved on golden tablets. We will be glad to negotiate anything that our friends in the House believe needs to be negotiated, and I am very open to doing that.”

Following his remarks on immigration reform, McCain turned his attention to U.S. foreign policy under the Obama Administration, which he bluntly called “weak.” 

“I have never seen the United States of America as weak throughout the world as it is today,” he stated. “I know the thing that dominates the news is the missing airliner, but I’m telling you that bad, bad things are going to happen in the world because the lack of U.S. leadership. The best example I can give you is that Ukraine just saw dismemberment of their country with the loss of Crimea. 

“Russians are massed on the border. This is the old standard playbook going all the way back to Adolf Hitler. Demonstrations are being fomented in these cities in the Eastern Ukraine, and guess what? We won’t even give them light weapons to defend themselves with. They wouldn’t fight in Crimea. They will fight in Ukraine, and we won’t even give them weapons. You know why we won’t give them weapons? Because it might be provocative to Colonel Putin! It is absolutely stunning. My old friend John Kerry and I had a very spirited conversation. I told him my hero was Theodore Roosevelt, who said, ‘Speak softly, but carry a big stick.’ They’re talking strongly and carrying a twig.” 

To view Senator McCain’s complete remarks before The Ripon Society’s breakfast discussion yesterday morning, please click on the link below: 

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.