Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday called the immigration bill championed by one of his presidential rivals a hodgepodge that won't accomplish what should be its central goal: tracking everyone who crosses the border.
"We need to know everyone who's in the United States who comes here from a foreign country. That has to be the goal of our immigration law," he said. "If you make that the objective of your law, you will clear up a lot of the confusion that presently exists both in our present immigration law and in what Congress is trying to do right now, which kind of goes in 10 different directions without any central focus."
But Arizona Sen. John McCain, a co-sponsor of the bill being debated by Congress, defended the measure against attacks from his rivals for the Republican nomination, saying it is needed to protect the country from terrorism.
"People who grew up in London, people who have spent most of their lives in the United States, have somehow become induced to be terrorists and that argues strongly for accounting for and bringing under control a situation where 12 million people are in our country illegally," McCain said in back-to-back conference calls with reporters in early voting states.
The immigration bill calls for tightening border security, granting legal status to nearly all the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants, and increasing penalties for employers who hire illegal workers.
It would create a point system for future immigration applicants that would place less emphasis on family connections and more on education and skills in demand by U.S. businesses.
Earlier this week, McCain knocked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's opposition to the legislation, saying his solution to illegal immigration might be "to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn." A landscaping company handling work at Romney's home reported had at illegal immigrants on the payroll.
Romney has been particularly vocal in characterizing McCain's bill as ineffective and a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Giuliani said the bill might solve some problems, but overall would make things worse by offering legal status to illegal immigrants.
Giuliani has said he is willing to compromise on legalizing illegal immigrants, but only if the bill requires tamperproof ID cards and a database of foreigners.
"It has to show when you came in. It also has to show when you leave, which I can't find (in the) hodgepodge that's being put together," he said. "I've gone over this thing about four times. I'm a lawyer. I've actually written laws, argued cases. I'm having a hard time understanding this law."