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McCain: Path to Citizenship Must Be ‘Fundamental Element’ of Immigration Reform

Photo by Jennifer Kauffman

Pointing to the “broad spectrum of support” from faith, labor and business groups that have lined up to support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a road map to citizenship, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the AFL-CIO Citizenship 2013 forum today, “I am confident we can prevail.”

McCain and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) kicked off the forum (we will bring more coverage later today) with a question-and-answer session at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., about the bill’s prospects in the House after bipartisan (68–32) passage in the U.S. Senate.  

Without mentioning House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has said he will not put the Senate bill on the floor for a vote, Becerra says:   

I think if the bill that passed the Senate was placed on the floor, it would pass bipartisanly….There is no reason we shouldn’t do something that is good for our economy and something that is good for our country….This is the year we are going to do it as long as the people in the Capitol put country in front of party.

McCain says that whatever emerges from the House, a path to citizenship must be a “fundamental element.” He says polls show the American people overwhelmingly support allowing immigrants the opportunity for citizenship.  

Every poll I have seen, and I have seen hundreds, shows well over 70% of the American people support a path to citizenship….They support a path to citizenship  because they realize this is an issue of 11 million people who are living shadows, who are deprived of their rights citizens and can’t live normal lives and are not going back to where they came from.

Without the protection of citizenship, says McCain, immigrants “are exploited in a wide variety of ways.”

Several Republican House leaders and members have proposed allowing aspiring citizens to remain the country and work but without any chance of earning citizenship. Says Becerra:

I don’t think this country is ready to go back to the 20th or 19th century where we have a second class of citizens. 

They also have called for a piecemeal approach, with several measures aimed at specific elements of immigration reform, but not a comprehensive package. Says Becerra:

You don’t do this in bits and pieces because if the machine is broken and you fix one part, all you’ve got is a machine with a part that works OK, but you still have a broken machine.

He says the four key elements the House must address are citizenship, workplace rights, border enforcement and fixing the current visa system.

Says McCain:

I have a great faith in the American people…at the end of the day we’re going to do the right thing.

Watch the full video coverage of the event from C-SPAN

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