OTR Interviews

McCain: State Dept. Official Owes Arizona an Apology

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 18, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, did Janet Napolitano just pull an Eric Holder? Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano says Arizona's illegal immigration law invites racial profiling. But does Secretary Napolitano really know what the law says? Now, listen to the secretary being questioned by Senator John McCain.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - ARIZ.: Have you had a chance to review the new law that was passed by the state of Arizona?

JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I've not reviewed it in detail. I certainly know of it, Senator.


VAN SUSTEREN: Earlier, Senator McCain went "On the Record" about his state's controversial law.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have a copy of the letter I got from one of my colleagues. It is dated May 18th. It is to the assistant secretary of state Michael Posner signed by you and your Senator Kyl, your colleague, asking for an apology on behalf of, I guess, Arizona. Why?

MCCAIN: Apparently Mr. Posner compared the immigration law in Arizona, which I'm sure he has not read, with the human right abuses that have taken place in China, a regime that killed millions of its citizens, has detained without cause, abuses, oppresses the people of Tibet. The list goes on and on.

Comparing the Arizona law to what takes place in China is an absolute outrage.

VAN SUSTEREN: As a followup to that, P.J. Crowley, who's a spokesperson for the State Department, said essentially that he backs up what Mr. Posner says. Then he says, Crowley, that he hasn't read the statute. Your thought about that?

MCCAIN: It's so disturbing to hear this portrayal by the liberal media and by people in the State Department of a bill they haven't read. The attorney general of the United States said he hadn't read after he said he was considering bringing suit against the Arizona law. It is really remarkable.

The fact is the Arizona law is a law that was bred by the frustration of the people of Arizona because the federal government would not enforce its responsibilities to secure the borders.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you mentioned --

MCCAIN: But just a second. To compare it with the human rights abuses that take place in China, for Mr. Crowley to make a comment about a law he hasn't read, it's so irresponsible. And it is unfair not only to the people of Arizona but the people of this country to make comments about legislation that they don't even know what's contained in it.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't mean to be flip, sir, but I guess in terms of this whole human rights discussion, it might be better to focus on Mexico where the people have been beheaded, last week a police officer shot in broad daylight. They have now put two other police officers under house arrest with the thought they are involved.

The country is replete with corruption. What are we doing about Mexico?

MCCAIN: Well, Mexico is in an existential struggle for its survival with the drug cartels. I admire President Calderon. If the wrong guy wins the next election then you will see the kind of thing that took place in Colombia before President Uribe came to power, and that is they will turn a blind eye to the drug cartels.

The corruption is rife, just as you said, and the problems are enormous. And the brutality is beyond description. A wedding the other day, they took the groom, his brother and a nephew out and killed them out of the wedding ceremony. The brutality is beyond belief.

But the fact is that Calderon is trying hard. And we are working with the Mexican government. They do have a legitimate point that he will say when he's here Washington that we are creating the demand for these $65 billion a year or whatever it is, drugs that are coming across the border.

They have corruption, they have enormous difficulties. We should work closely with them and try to help them in this struggle again the drug cartels.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then I guess if the thought is if indeed it is as bleak as you say in Mexico, and I was down there with Secretary of State Clinton a while back, and everything we saw was horrendous, including a lot of weapons seized by the authorities there.

Why isn't the federal government doing something to protect Arizona from having that violence, that horrible human rights violations in Mexico exported from that country into our country?

MCCAIN: They are not doing enough. The fact is way back in 2007, some of us saw this dramatic increase in violence and knew it was going to spill across our border. We are very fortunate, frankly, Greta, that there hasn't been more of it.

So, if we don't secure our border, sooner or later something really bad is going to happen. And it won't be maybe just come from Mexico. It could come from someplace else in the form of a terrorist act.

Every government has the responsibility to its citizens to secure its borders. The people in the southern part of my state are living in some parts of it in circumstances we should ask no citizen to live under. They can't go to the bus stop. Their homes are being invaded. Their property is being violated.

And the drug cartels are becoming better equipped, better armed, better orchestrated, and a greater challenge to our law enforcement people. Meanwhile, this administration refuses to send the guard to the border, which is clearly need.

VAN SUSTEREN: You have asked for it now twice, yesterday in a letter with Senator Kyl and about two weeks ago, is that right?

MCCAIN: Yes. And by the way, Senator Kyl and I have a 10-point plan that we are confident and so are our other friends in enforcement that would secure the border.

VAN SUSTEREN: Had the election gone the other way I would be posing the same question to you, but President Obama when he ran for office for president, like you did, promised an immigration reform policy.

Why do we get zero, zippo? He's not the first one to make that promise. Presidents before him have. But virtually nothing has been done.

MCCAIN: Here's the problem, and I'll try to be brief. In the 1980s under President Reagan we gave amnesty to two million people here in this country illegally and promised to secure the borders. We didn't secure the borders. In the 90s we promised to secure the borders, we didn't.

And now here we are in 2010 many saying we have to have comprehensive immigration reform. We can't do that until we have the border secure. Otherwise we are like a hamster on a wheel, because once you address in a comprehensive fashion, if millions more are coming in illegally you have to start all over again.

That's why the emphasis has to be on border security. Then address the rest of the issue.

VAN SUSTEREN: If it has gone back to President Reagan and presidents and senators and congressmen on both sides of the aisle, why isn't that done? We hear that from everybody.

MCCAIN: I think a number of factors, one, not making use of the technology that is available and providing the manpower and completing the fence. Another is there are certain forces that say this is a good workforce supply and maybe we ought to you let more people come in.

But in the last couple of years in the Bush administration they got serious about border security and we made significant progress. This administration is not serious.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you still in favor of path to citizenship?

MCCAIN: Yes, and a legal temporary worker program that is much needed, also particularly in the agricultural sector. But first, we have to get the border secure.


VAN SUSTEREN: Next, is Senator McCain getting snubbed by the White House? Much more with Senator McCain, next.



VAN SUSTEREN: On the topic everyone is talking about with John McCain, Arizona's new immigration law signed by Governor Jan Brewer.


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor Brewer, how is she doing on this issue?

MCCAIN: I'm very proud of work she is doing. And I'm glad she highlighted the fact that the president would make a joke out of problems on our border and the laws that our legislature passed.

And again, you can't make it up, when the attorney general of the United States says that he's going to consider going to court and then tests before Congress that he hasn't read the bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do they not understand the -- it seems the people of Arizona are begging for it. I read the statute, and I think it is an effort to run immigration policy which the state is not supposed to run under the constitution. But I see it as a cry for help from Arizona.

MCCAIN: I just think it is exactly as you said. It is a reaction to the failure of the federal government to exercise its responsibility to secure the border. And by the way, our governor will point out the cost are horrendous of illegal immigration into our state in law enforcement, health care, so many other ways.

Do not underestimate the sophistication of the human smugglers and the drug cartels. They work together. You hear a lot about human rights in this debate. You don't hear much about the fact of the abuse of these people that these coyotes are bringing across, holding them for ransom, jamming into trucks, mistreating them in the worst possible way.

You would think that human rights advocate was say let's secure the border so over time we can bring people into our country in an orderly fashion and not be subject to you these abuses. The drug cartels are right along with them.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about businesses who hire people who are not documented?

MCCAIN: Once we secure the borders we should prosecute employers to the fullest extent of the law that hire someone that's in this country illegally.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why wait to secure the borders? Why can't we do those two things at the same time?

MCCAIN: I think you could you do some of that. But the fact is if you have an unending stream of people into the country then, obviously, it's addressing the symptom, not the problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except for the fact that you don't have to hire someone how is undocumented if that is against the law. Maybe the law should be changed. Right now that is against the law.

MCCAIN: Yes, it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what about going after the companies?

MCCAIN: I think we should do that. But we should get the borders secure so there is not this symptom which is people coming to this country and working illegally.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you call the White House or the president and say this is a real problem to my state? Can you do that?

MCCAIN: We've written and communicated with people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you get responses?

MCCAIN: No, we don't.


MCCAIN: We sent a letter April 9th to Secretary Napolitano yesterday requesting National Guard on the border. Yesterday at a hearing I asked her about it, and that was April 9th. She said they are still looking at the request. Meanwhile our wildlife refuges are being destroyed, people are coming across and the drugs are coming across.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you are getting boycotts because there is no progress in trying to settle the problem, and cities are boycotting your state?

MCCAIN: Yes. Let me give you two numbers. Over 1.3 million pounds of marijuana were intercepted last year just in the Tucson sector. They were prosecuting anybody they apprehended with less than 500 pounds of marijuana.

The other is 241,000 crossed the Tucson sector illegally last year. And if you figure you catch one out of four, one out of five, roughly a million people crossed the Tucson border into Arizona last year with rings that take them up to Tucson, up to Phoenix, and then distribute them all over the country.

This is a crime syndicate. This is mafia at its worst. It is not just some poor person that wants to come across our border. It is drug cartels and human smuggling and human rights abuses to a degree that is appalling.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think a lot of people realize what is going on in Mexico. That's why my attention is so focused on it, because it is just right over the border. And the level of violence is just unthinkable.

MCCAIN: Part of it is between the drug cartels themselves as they fight over these lucrative routes. Part of it is of course the government trying to crackdown on these cartels.

I love the Mexicans, I respect President Calderon. The truth is the only institution that can really be trusted is the army, because the police and border and others, border patrol and others have been corrupted by these billions and billions of dollars that are made.

So, I respect them. We have done a lot of work with the Mexican government trying to help them bring this under control. But honestly, they are fighting an uphill battle.

VAN SUSTEREN: Explain no matter what the topic is in Washington when I meet with senators, they say we wrote a letter to the White House. I don't know if it is true of the last administration too, but where do these letters go? I never hear anyone getting responses. How do we actually get action?

MCCAIN: The only way I think we are going to really get action on the border is the American people being listened to. Seventy percent of the people in Arizona supported the law we passed, 60 percent and more of the American people support it. And they know that in Arizona we need a secure border.

And so maybe public opinion will have affect. And again, people say you can't secure the border. You can secure the border. Jon Kyl and I have a 10-point plan to secure the border. It takes people, fences, and technological surveillance, which we can do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you.


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