For years, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has stood at the crossroads of Conservatism and immigration.
In 2007, he lead the charge to reform the immigration system. Scuttled by far-right lobby groups, McCain moved away from his comprehensive reform approach and pushed for securing the border, running an ad in 2010 during a primary challenge from the right that said “Complete the dang fence.” Now, after Latino voters made up a considerable part of the electorate, McCain is back to the reform table, and his more conservative constituents are not pleased.
“Why didn’t the army go down and stop them, because the only thing that stops them, I’m afraid to say and it’s too damn bad, but is a gun. That’s all that will stop them,” one constituent said at a Town Hall the Senator hosted on Tuesday..
“The border is 2,000 miles long, sir. I don’t know how many troops and army people you think would be required. I don’t know how many you think would be required, but I’ll give you expert information that shows you’re probably talking about 2 million soldiers,” McCain said. “You want to round up 11 million people and send them back to their country. You’re not going to do that. They’re not going to do that. They’re not going to do that though, they are people who have been here, illegally, for 50 years, or 40 years. Then telling them to become guest workers? No, you can’t do that. Why can’t you do that? Because we’re a Judeo-Christian principled nation.”
“You said build the dang fence, where’s the fence?” another asked.
The Senator pointed to charts, which showed $600 million in appropriations to secure the border.
“That’s not a fence!” someone called.
McCain is part of a group of Republican Senators including Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Marco Rubio who are looking to lead the way on bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform; the president reached out to the trio yesterday, in the wake of a leaked memo detailing the president’s plans (which Sen. Rubio said was “half-baked and seriously flawed” due to its lack of input from Republicans.)
The bipartisan group that announced a general immigration deal last month found compromise with both a more secure border with a path to citizenship, but the details are far from set.
“There is resistance to real reform, guys like Sen. Rubio are sticking their necks out and they’re getting on the phone with Conservative talk radio hosts and trying to educate these Conservative opinion leaders and grass roots efforts about what we need to do something and they are feeling a little exposed on both sides – they’re exposed on the right and they’re exposed [on the left]– the fact that Rubio [first] heard from President Obama on immigration reform yesterday,” former Romney adviser Dan Senor said on Wednesday’s Morning Joe.