Sen. John McCain, chief architect of a bipartisan bill several years ago that sought to strengthen border enforcement while also providing a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, says now that he would support congressional work toward an overhaul of the immigration system once "the borders have been secured."
Immigration bills have faltered in Congress as legislators have been divided over whether to push both enforcement and a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants, or whether to focus just on enforcement.
Some political leaders and lobby groups that favor a hard line on immigration say that enforcement must come above all else when addressing illegal immigration. Many on that side of the debate object to proposals to legalize undocumented immigrants who met a certain set of criteria -- they say it amounts to amnesty, and rewards law breakers.
Others argue that any real solution to illegal immigration must factor in a path to legalization for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented people living here, and who are unlikely to be found and deported. They want a comprehensive approach to addressing illegal immigration.
McCain says GOP lawmakers celebrating their newfound power on Capitol Hill should remember that last fall's elections were not so much an embrace of their policies as it was "a vote of disapproval with how we've been doing business."
Asked what advice he would give to new House and Senate members starting service in Washington for the first time, the veteran Republican said, "Work hard. Go home as much as you can."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.