MCCAIN: That's the process we are going through.
CAVUTO: But he says and others like that, though, Senator, they say Ronald Reagan was hoodwinked on this tighten the border security thing, and even Reagan in retrospect said afterwards he regretted what amounted to many critics say, the first amnesty bill, if you will, and that they didn't really police that enforcement to the degree he had hoped.
MCCAIN: Well, I have got to tell you, I -- unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I was there at the time.
And what happened? Congress didn't appropriate the funds or take the action to get the border secure. It wasn't Ronald Reagan that didn't do it. It was the Congress of the United States.
CAVUTO: How do you know it won't happen again? How do you know it won't happen again?
MCCAIN: Because this is -- because this has triggers that are ironclad, in my view. They will tell you that it isn't. I am telling you that it is. And there is a commitment.
And, by the way, the border is much, much more secure. At the time that was passed in 1986, we had 4,000 Border Patrol agents. Now we have 21,000. This legislation will give 20,000 more.
Look, this will be the most well- defended border since the Berlin Wall went down. And so for those people who say this isn't good enough, their problem is not border security, Neil. It is other problems they have with legislation that would bring 11 million people out of the shadows.
CAVUTO: Now, Mexico is kind of feeding some conservatives' fears, because they are -- they're complaining about this, but at the same time they are arguing, hey, go ahead and grant them some amnesty or the equivalent and work on the border security thing later, but we find the border security thing offensive.
So, what do you think of that, and conservatives might pounce on that as another reason to delay this?
MCCAIN: Well, let me try to explain that we give them legal status, legal status as long as they haven't committed crimes, pass background checks, back taxes, all of those kinds of things, including learning English.
MCCAIN: And then it is a 10-year process before they are eligible for a green card.
And then it is another three years or so before they can achieve citizenship. And they pay fees of hundreds and hundreds of dollars as -- on every step of the way. Meanwhile, we employ technology which we didn't have back in 1986 that would give us a secure border and an ability to surveil, situational awareness, we call it, of 100 percent and effective control of 90 percent. This is vastly different from 1986, and I was here at the time and I can assure you of that fact.
And so all I can tell you is this. If we don't do something -- and we would be glad to deal with the House of Representatives if they would pass a bill -- you're going to have de facto amnesty of -- for 11 million people. They are not going to self-deport. They are not going to be sent away, and they are going to be living in the shadows of our society. And you can't convince me that that's healthy for America.
CAVUTO: All right, so you were talking about you were there for 1986, the debate. It wasn't 1886?
MCCAIN: And '76 was one of our -- 1776 was one of our best years, as you recall.
CAVUTO: Indeed. Indeed.
Senator, touche. I guess I just missed the call. That's it.
John McCain in Washington, D.C.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Neil.
CAVUTO: All right.
Content and Programming Copyright 2013 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2013 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.