Sen. McCain on bipartisan immigration plan

AZ lawmaker on new path to citizenship


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 28, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ERIC BOLLING, GUEST HOST: Eight lawmakers, four Democrats, four Republicans today calling for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants already living in this country. Critics are calling this amnesty. The plan calls for verifying that our borders are secure, better tracking of people entering the U.S. on visas, creating a new system to ensure employers don't hire illegals, and allowing more low-skill workers to enter the country to fill agricultural jobs not wanted by U.S. citizens.

All this as President Obama heads to Las Vegas tomorrow to make his own immigration push.

And now to the guy at the center the immigration story, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. He's the one of the eight senators rolling out this new plan.

Senator, welcome. Sir, thank you for joining us, important guy. Important day. You rolled out this plan today in front of President Obama's plan. Tell us -- already on the right, the GOP, some GOPers saying, sir, this sounds like a blanket amnesty.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - AZ: Well, I was also encouraged that Speaker John Boehner said that we have to have a comprehensive immigration reform pass.

There are 11 million people who are living in the shadows in America. Many of them, a very large percentage, have been here for over 10 years. But a precondition is secure borders. And we have not done that. Now, our borders are more secure, but they are by no means secure.

And the Arizona-Sonora border is the major drug trafficking routes for the drug cartels bringing drugs in the United States. So we have to use lot of high-tech. We have got to use drones. We have got to do a lot of things to get that border secure. But that must be done. And then I think we have to move on with this issue.

BOLLING: Senator, just about an hour or so ago, Senator Schumer and yourself came to the podium and you talked about what you need do to get this thing started. And you both pointed out that securing the border was number one, as you point out here.

But is that realistic? Can you really say we're going to secure the border? We have been trying to do it for the better part of, I don't know, 150-200 years.

MCCAIN: Well, I think with the advent of high-tech things, such as drones and surveillance equipment, that we can -- we are perfectly capable of it.

One of big problems on Southwest border, as you know, it gets so unbearably hot in the summer. It is very difficult for our men and women who are doing such a great job to perform very efficiently. So, we are going to have to move to technology. And, yes, I am confident that we can.

And, by the way, our Yuma -- Arizona has two sectors, a Tucson sector and a Yuma sector. Our Yuma sector -- Yuma sector of our border is, for all intents and purposes, operationally secure, much more difficult in the other sector, but it certainly can be done.

BOLLING: Sir, won't they just find another section of the country, the border to go, Texas, New Mexico, California? Won't they just find another space that they can walk through? There is so much video on the Internet where you see drug dealers walking back and forth on a daily basis.

Are we realistic in thinking that we will be able to secure that border before we can put any of these other plans in action that you senators outlined?

MCCAIN: Is it not realistic to think that a nation such as ours could not secure our borders? Is that not realistic?

Come on. Of course we can secure our borders. We also have to address the issue of those who overstay a visa and also those who have come in and overstay the period of time that they are there and other aspects of it.

But to think somehow that we are going to have a situation where drugs can flow freely over our border is something that I don't think most of our citizens would agree to, particularly since we spend so many billions of dollars on surveillance and that kind of thing.

And, by the way, the Israelis, they have been able to secure their borders, and they have had hundreds of miles of border as well.


BOLLING: Senator, let me jump in here a little , because I want...


BOLLING: .. important questions before we run out of time.

MCCAIN: Sure. Sure. Sorry.

BOLLING: Let's say we do get that border secured and you guys are right and we move forward. What are the requirements for the 11 million or so -- some would say a lot of higher -- 11 million or so illegals who are currently in the country? What do they need to do to get a path to citizenship?

MCCAIN: They have to pay back taxes. They have a noncriminal record. They have to learn English. They have be able to understand and study our history.

They have to get in line behind everyone else. They will be granted legal status, but then they get behind everyone else who has waited legally for green card status.

BOLLING: What about military service? Anyone ever thought -- think about maybe requiring a year or two of military service?

MCCAIN: Well, if the military could use people for a year or two, that might be. A minimum enlistment is four.

There has been a proposal on the DREAM Act to accelerate their path. These are the young people who are brought here as children by their parents, that military service and schooling could be part of it. And, by the way, high-tech, those would graduate with Ph.D.s and others in high technology, we want to have a way to keep them in the United States as well.

BOLLING: Sure. Sure.

And Senator Schumer pointed out that he would like to get this thing going right away. In fact, he said maybe day one we can start moving as soon it gets through the Senate now and then passes the House and President Obama signs it. Here's my concern, sir. Tell me where I am wrong.

If that happens that quickly, that fast, won't we have a flood of illegals coming across the border trying to beat the time, beat clock, saying I have to get there, because if I just get there, I will be able to stay?

MCCAIN: I'm sure we can set a date that anybody who comes afterwards would not be eligible. And I am sure we will.

BOLLING: All right, Senator John McCain, thank you for joining us, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

BOLLING: All right.

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