JUAN WILLIAMS: Senator John McCain thanks for coming in for this Fox News Latino exclusive.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ):Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Senator, why do you keep saying that the Hispanic vote is up for grabs, when polls consistently show that President Obama has close to seventy percent support in the Latino community?
McCAIN: And he had very strong, strong support in 2008 as well. Because I think that there are many values, and things that we share, we Republicans: lower taxes, pro military, small business, you know how Hispanic or Latinos are small business people, Pro-life. There are many areas there that they would, in my view, would be naturally attracted to the Republican banner. And they in fact… George Bush, Bush II did well in his elections, with Hispanic voters. And, we all know what the answer is, and what the problem is. It’s the issue of immigration. And we have to treat it in a humane fashion, and we have to understand that with any new wave of immigrants that comes to our country, whether it be Irish, or Italian, Poles, whoever it is, Hispanics in America, or Latinos, have an allegiance to the people who are coming and that are still in the country they came from.
WILLIAMS: Well, let’s look at the likely GOP nominee stance. Mitt Romney, on immigration reform, opposes the Dream Act, opposes Pathways to Citizenship. In fact, he’s calling for self-deportation. He opposes guest worker programs, opposes tuition breaks for undocumented kids who are in the United States. Why would Hispanics vote for that candidate?
McCAIN: Well, first of all, as you described Mitt Romney is not the case in all due respect. He is solidly in favor of immigration reform. He knows that there are twelve million people who are in this country illegally. He knows you have to address it. He has also stated, recently, and I’m happy to say, that we have to address it in a humane fashion. The issue of self-deportation, there are some Hispanics who have come back, but he doesn’t—gone back to the country that they, mainly ‘cause the economic conditions here. So he, he doesn’t—but he doesn’t think that’s the, the entire answer to the issue. As you know Marco Rubio and some others are working on a version of the Dream Act. And by the way also he does not oppose guest worker programs either, either for high tech, or for agricultural workers.
Look, Mitt Romney understands that we have a challenge with the Hispanic voter. I believe, as this campaign moves on, that you will see him addressing this issue of the need for immigration reform. We all know what we need to happen. Let me just, I have one more small point, I’m sorry for the long answer, but you are touching on one of the key issues of the 2012 Presidential campaign. We still do have a huge problem with drugs coming across our border. There are a hundred guides sitting on mountaintops right now in Arizona, guiding the drug cartels as they bring the drugs across the Arizona/Mexico border, up to Phoenix, where they are distributed throughout the nation. And the price of cocaine, by the way, on the street, has not gone up one penny, despite all of our drug efforts. That’s the best indicator as to how we’re doing on the, quote, war on drugs. So there’s a bigger problem than just illegal immigrants coming across our border. There are still drugs, and we’re creating a demand, and that’s, you know, a big part of the issue. And that, that can’t go on, Juan. It can’t.
WILLIAMS: Let me go back then.
WILLIAMS: With all due respect.
WILLIAMS: You say he, he doesn’t oppose a guest worker program. He has refused to get involved in putting forward any guest worker program, and like you, Senator McCain…
WILLIAMS: …He says, oh no, first we have to secure the border.
WILLIAMS: Well, there are now more boots on the ground than ever, and…
McCAIN: We have made progress.
WILLIAMS: …DHS says they have put more money, in terms of technology and surveillance on the border. And yet, the entire immigration debate, during the Republican primaries, was cast in terms of drug dealers, human trafficking, not in terms of people simply seeking economic opportunity and a better life for their families.
McCAIN: Juan, most of the people now who come across, or large numbers of people who come across, are brought by coyotes. The young women are raped, they’re put in drop houses in Phoenix, Arizona, where they are kept in the most unspeakable condition, and held for ransom. The human rights abuses, not to mention the tearing up of our wildlife refuges, which is taking place as well, by these drug dealers and others who are coming across. We have made progress, but we have by no means gotten our border secure. So obviously Americans want both. They want both a secure border, that’s an obligation of every country, but I think they also understand that we have a serious issue out there that needs to be addressed. And I think…
WILLIAMS: But Senator, I think you know…
McCAIN: Yeah, go ahead.
WILLIAMS: …That in fact, most of the undocumented people in the United States don’t come across the border, and they’re certainly not trafficked, not brought across by coyotes.
WILLIAMS: They’re people who come here on legal visas, and simply overstay that visa.
McCAIN: Well, just because we have not addressed that issue, which we can and should, doesn’t mean that we still don’t have a serious problem with drugs coming across our borders.
WILLIAMS: But I’m saying, I’m saying, don’t you think that that is wrong, it’s a distortion, that the Republican debate about immigration is centered on drugs and illegal human trafficking?
McCAIN: The use of drugs, in my, in fact, I just saw a news report, after going down some, is now on the way up again, amongst young people. We can’t ignore that problem. That’s, that’s…
WILLIAMS: But I’m saying, isn’t that a separate problem?
McCAIN: No, I think because…
WILLIAMS: A separate issue?
McCAIN: Not as long as those drugs, the majority of ‘em are being brought across our border, uh, illegally. Could I mention also one historical fact? Ted Kennedy and I were doing immigration reform. It was Senator Obama who went to the floor, and proposed an amendment which would sunset the guest worker program that Ted Kennedy and I had agreed to, which would’ve destroyed, uh, which was partially the reason why we destroyed immigration reform. It was destroyed by people like then-Senator Obama on the left, and some who are opposed to agricultural worker program, and by some on the right who obviously called it, quote, amnesty. So, the irony of all this is, that then-Senator Obama was part of the destruction of the effort that Ted Kennedy and I made. But you won’t hear that very often.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think the votes, though, didn’t come from the Republican side. President Bush was in favor of it.
WILLIAMS: I believe you were in favor of it.
WILLIAMS: But the defeat came from a lot of the talk radio people on the far right, who took away Republican votes in the Congress.
McCAIN: It was a group on the far right, and it was also on the left, the Farm Workers of America, a union, and trade unions who were opposed to the guest worker program provision. One of… the greatness of Ted Kennedy, as you know, was that he was willing—he and I agreed to vote against amendments that we otherwise might support. And I saw him speak rather sternly to then-Senator Obama, when Senator Obama proposed the amendment to quote, sunset, in other words, end the guest worker program, but the rest of the immigration reform continued.
WILLIAMS: And you think this will be highlighted in the course of the campaign, by the Romney folks?
McCAIN: I don’t know, to tell you the truth.
McCAIN: People have a tendency to forget these things, and a lot of people don’t understand the way we work in the Senate. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know.
WILLIAMS: Now you know Mitt Romney’s dad was born in Mexico.
WILLIAMS: You were born in Panama, just like me.
McCAIN: Canal Zone. Yes.
WILLIAMS: Exactly. So, historically…
McCAIN: Yes. I, much long before you, I might add.
WILLIAMS: You’re a kind soul. Historically, you have been much admired, loved…
WILLIAMS: …by Latinos in your community, in Arizona, thirty percent of the state.
McCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
WILLIAMS: But as the GOP has pulled to the right, it looks like you have abandoned so much of your support for pro-immigrant policies. It looks like you said, you know what, we’ve got to wait until that border is secure, even as the border has become more secure. So, are people right to criticize you as having abandoned the immigrant, immigrant community?
McCAIN: Well I hope not. But I do also understand, though, that there have been increases in border security. There’s no doubt about that. But has there been enough? As I pointed out to you, the price for an ounce of cocaine on the street in Chicago is not one penny more than it was before we started all this. We can use technology, we can do things that rather than just hiring people. But right now, for example, our wildlife refuges in southern Arizona are being destroyed. That’s something that’s a desecration of our, of our history. So I think that, working together, we can work out immigration reform, which has to do with guest worker programs, which has to do with past the citizenship, not necessarily granting citizenship, but giving people legal status. Also, this issue of course, of children who were brought here, has to be addressed as well. And, there will be people on both ends of the spectrum who…
WILLIAMS: Who stand in the way.
WILLIAMS: Now, now people, similarly ask, why would John McCain be supporting Jan Brewer, when you think about SB 1070, especially the initial issue about racial profiling.
WILLIAMS: People say 'why was John McCain supporting Governor Brewer?' What do you say?
McCAIN: Because I sympathized with her, and the citizens of my state that were incredibly frustrated. We had a border patrol agent killed. We had a rancher who was killed by drug smugglers. People were not safe in their homes, in the southern part of our state. SB 1070, the law that was passed in Arizona, was a direct result of the frustration that our citizens felt, because their lives, literally in the southern part of our state, were not safe on the American side of the border. And that was bred out of that frustration. Now, since the border enforcement has been increased, and we have seen some improvements, you haven’t seen nearly the fervor that you saw in the past. And by the way, on that issue, I think it’s pretty clear from the argument that the Supreme Court members made, that a lot of that, that law may be upheld…
WILLIAMS: So what’s your prediction…
McCAIN: …By the United States Supreme Court.
WILLIAMS: What’s your prediction on the court?
McCAIN: I think there’ll be a couple of aspects, certainly, that’ll be upheld. If you, if a policeman arrests someone, and that person acts in a strange fashion, to ask them to show their identification, I don’t think is, I think the Supreme Court, that’s even, Judge Sotomayor acted very skeptical, as to whether that was unconstitutional or not.
WILLIAMS: And so you expect that that would be upheld, and that…
McCAIN: I think provisions of it.
WILLIAMS: What provisions do you think will be struck down?
McCAIN: I’m not sure of all of the details, but I’m sure that there are a couple of areas where it would probably be struck down. And, look, I love my state. I love the people of my state. And I know that sometimes our image is hurt by this, all this controversy that…
WILLIAMS: I was just going to ask you. Arizona’s become now known as the anti-immigrant state. There are boycotts against Arizona.
McCAIN: Actually, those, those aren’t happening anymore, the boycotts. Our tourism is back up, and the convention business, which is so important, because it really is such a wonderful place for us to live and work. But again when I go down to the southern part of my state, and I meet a group of ranchers that say, I can’t even drop my child off at the bus stop, because… for fear of their safety, then we have to do something about that.
WILLIAMS: But that’s a drug issue, isn’t it?
McCAIN: I’m their elected—it’s, it’s a lot to do with drugs, and it’s got to do a lot to do with these coyotes who are bringing people across.
WILLIAMS: The vice-presidential pick is the talk of the town. Do you have a pick that you would suggest for Mitt Romney?
McCAIN: No, I think it would be very presumptive of the loser to do that. But I think he has a deep bench to draw from, and obviously the same ones that I see you discuss…
McCAIN: …On the panels, on Fox, Marco Rubio would be very attractive, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte, we’ve got several governors out there, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and all of these people, by the way, say, no, no, never, I don’t want it! You’ve got to, you’ve got to say, I don’t want it.
WILLIAMS: Right, right. Do you want…
McCAIN: …That said, yes, I want it!
WILLIAMS: That’d be…
WILLIAMS: Do you think that if Romney was to select Marco Rubio…
McCAIN: Yeah. Yeah.
WILLIAMS: …It would impact the Latino vote that he could in fact make inroads that would lessen the amount of support for the Democrats and President Obama?
McCAIN: Well, first of all, I think it would help in Florida, because Rubio is very popular in Florida, with all segments of the population. But I think it’s bound to. But I also agree with the point that you were making earlier, in your questioning, and that is that we need to show the Hispanic community that we recognize that this is, in many ways, an issue of being humane, of being understanding, of having compassion, and that, that’s, that’s really the fundamental way, that, to, to address the issue.
WILLIAMS: You know, you earlier said, there’s so much in common in terms of social values, between…
McCAIN: Pro-military, small business, lower taxes, pro-life, yeah, there’s many, many, uh, common ground between ourselves—small business men and women are huge amounts of our Latino population.
WILLIAMS: Okay, so, John McCain, Republican wise man is talking to the Romney campaign. What’s the leverage point, where do you advise them to go, to start to bridge, and bring those people of common value, into touch with the Republican Party?
McCAIN: Well, Mitt Romney has said that he is in favor of immigration reform. Now, like anything else, the devil is in the details. And as you know, Marco Rubio is working on a version of the Dream Act to address probably one of the most compelling aspects of all this issue, and that is, people who came to our country, were brought, and were brought as children. So look, Republicans can read polls just as well as Democrats, Juan. Everybody knows that this is a serious issue, not only now, but the demographics, and Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico…
WILLIAMS: Texas, California. Well, not, I mean…
McCAIN: Georgia! Georgia. Look at the large, fast-growing Hispanic population in the Atlanta area.
McCAIN: So, we understand that. Now, the question is, are we going to be able to really address it in a serious fashion? I believe so, and I hope so.
WILLIAMS: But you don’t have any suggestion as to how to do it.
McCAIN: Well, as I say, Marco Rubio is working on a… and others are working with him on a version of the Dream Act.
WILLIAMS: But you know that he…
WILLIAMS: …That Rubio’s proposal would not grant citizenship, it would just allow them to stay in the country. He says he wants to prevent chain migration. It’s not going to pass muster with most Latino voters, who want a Dream Act that gives those young people in the military, in school, the opportunity to be American citizens.
McCAIN: Well, first of all, I’m not sure that that’s, that that’s the case, because I think, first of all, they do want, uh, to have a legal status, and be able to come out of the shadows. Second of all, let me tell you a big problem with the Dream Act. Dream Act says you can go to college for two years—as proposed by Senator Durbin. Go to college for two years, or serve in the military for, for two years. We don’t serve in the military for two years. We serve in the military for four years. So what are you going to say? And the reason why we serve for four years, it takes so long to train them, so, anyone who joins our military. So, we’re going to say, here’s a special category, that can, only has to serve in the military for two years? Come on. So there’s, there’s some fundamental flaws with their version of the Dream Act, that I think has to be addressed as well.
WILLIAMS: Senator McCain, thank you so much for coming in to Fox News Latino.
McCAIN: Thank you for the interrogation.
WILLIAMS: The interrogation. Well, we did it in English.
McCAIN: Thanks a lot.
WILLIAMS: Thank you very much, Senator.
Juan Williams is a writer, author and Fox News political analyst and special contributor to Fox News Latino. His latest book "Muzzled: The Assault On Honest Debate" (Crown/Random House) was released in 2011. He also writes for The Hill and on TheHill.com.
This interview was produced by Victor Garcia. Follow him on twitter @MrVicGarcia.