John McCain: The Ultimate Hypocrite On Immigration Reform

April 23, 2010 9:53 am ET

To those familiar with the life and career of Senator John McCain, his current position on immigration reform is incredibly disappointing.  Facing a far-right primary challenger, McCain has turned his back on his constituents and the causes he once championed.

McCain Previously Supported Immigration Reform Provisions That Are In The Current Schumer-Graham Proposal

Sens. Schumer & Graham:

For the 11 million immigrants already in this country illegally, we would provide a tough but fair path forward. They would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence. [Washington Post, 3/17/10]

2006: McCain Said Immigrants Paying Back Taxes, Passing A Background Check, And Waiting In Line Is "In No Way Amnesty."  During an interview on Larry King Live that covered the 2006 immigration reform legislation, host Larry King and Sen. John McCain had the following exchange:

KING: Are you surprised that so many people, I think over 70 percent, favor, like, work program -- don't favor throw them back?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it's the goodness of the American people and a realization on the part of the American people, you can't round up 11 million people and send them back. I mean, first of all logistically it's impossible, but from a humanitarian standpoint, an economic standpoint.

So when Americans understand the problem, which is a product of 50 years of failed federal policy, they think that earning -- and I emphasize earning -- citizenship is the way to go. And that means back taxes, criminal background check, $2,000 fine, work for six years, get in the back of the line behind everybody else, then get a green card, then be eligible for citizenship. That, in no way, is amnesty. [CNN, Larry King Live, 5/14/06]

Sens. Schumer & Graham:

We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices. The card would be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.

Prospective employers would be responsible for swiping the cards through a machine to confirm a person's identity and immigration status. Employers who refused to swipe the card or who otherwise knowingly hired unauthorized workers would face stiff fines and, for repeat offenses, prison sentences. [Washington Post, 3/17/10]

2007: McCain Said "I Got The Message" On Immigration And We Need "Verifiable Biometric Documents."  During an interview on Fox News' Fox & Friends, Sen. McCain said: "On immigration, we got -- I got the message, my friend: We've got to secure the borders. As president I would have the governors of the border states certify that the borders are secure, but we still have to have a temporary worker program that works with verifiable biometric documents, and we've also got to address the issue of the 12 million people who are already here illegally." [Fox & Friends via, 10/16/07]

2008: McCain Supported Use Of "Biometric Documents" To Regulate Hiring Practices.  During the 2008 GOP Primary Debate, Sen. John McCain said: "I will have the border state governors certify the borders are secured. And then we will move onto the other aspects of this issue, probably as importantly as tamper-proof biometric documents, which then, unless an employer hires someone with those documents, that employer will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And that will cause a lot of people to leave voluntarily." [, 1/30/08]

McCain Once Said Militarizing The Border Was "PR," Now Supports It

2006: McCain Said Putting National Guard At Border Is "Partially PR." During an interview on Larry King Live, host Larry King and Sen. John McCain had the following exchange regarding bringing additional National Guard troops to the United States-Mexico border:

KING: You like the National Guard idea, since -- what do they really do?

MCCAIN: I think what the National Guard will do is one, provide some comfort to some of our citizens who feel we don't have enough people down there, and they're correct. I think the second thing is important to point out, that the guard people will play support and administrative roles and some labor work. But in order to be an effective border patrol -- remember the border patrol, it requires training, just like it requires training to do other specialties. So I think the President's intention is for them to go down there and be of assistance, but not be on the front line.

KING: Is it PR?

MCCAIN: Partially PR, because Americans are so upset about broken borders in a time when we're in a war on terror and we are not enforcing our borders. All of us understand and appreciate that. Larry, parts of southern California and parts of the southern part of my state are devastated by illegal aliens, whether it be health care costs or law enforcement or even destruction of our wildlife refuges. I understand the frustration that Americans feel, but thank God the majority of Americans feel that we have to handle this in a humane fashion and in a comprehensive fashion. [CNN, Larry King Live, 5/14/06]

2010: McCain Asked Homeland Security Secretary To Send The National Guard To The Border.  According to POLITICO, Sen. John McCain wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano: "I am asking you and the administration to immediately reconsider your position and send National Guard troops to our southern border region." [POLITICO, 3/30/10]

No Matter What He Says, McCain Has Voted AGAINST Funding Border Security Measures

2006: McCain Voted AGAINST Providing $85 Million And 800 New Staff For Immigration Investigation.  Sen. John McCain voted against Sen. Sessions' amendment that would "appropriate an additional $85,670,000 to enable the Secretary of Homeland Security to hire 800 additional full time active duty investigators to investigate immigration laws violations." The amendment failed 66-34.  [S.Amdt. 4660 to H.R. 5441, Vote #201, 7/13/06]

2006: McCain Voted AGAINST Providing Additional Funds To Build A Border Fence On Southwest Border.  Sen. McCain voted against an amendment that would "appropriate an additional $1,829,400,000 to construct double-layered fencing and vehicle barriers along the southwest border and to offset such increase by reducing all other discretionary amounts on a prorata basis." The amendment failed 71-29.  [S.Amdt. 4659 to H.R. 5441, Vote#200, 7/13/06]

However, he did vote in favor of a U.S.-Mexico partnership on border security.

2006: McCain Supported Amendment Requiring The U.S. To Coordinate Border Security With Mexico.  McCain voted in favor of Sen. Specter's (R-PA) amendment to that would require "the U.S. government to consult with Mexico before building fencing along the border. It also would create exceptions to the bill's requirement that temporary workers who are unemployed for 60 days leave the country, including an exemption for circumstances beyond the worker's control."  The amendment passed 56-41. [S.Amdt. 4188 to S. 2611, Vote #156, 5/25/06;, 5/26/06, subscription required]

McCain's 180 On Border Security


2003 McCain: "We Can't Secure Our Borders.  We Can Never Build An Impenetrable Wall To The North And South Of Us." During an appearance on Fox's Big Story, Sen. McCain said, "We can't secure our borders, Rita. We can never build an impenetrable wall to the north and south of us." [Fox News, Big Story, via Lexis 5/31/03]

2003: McCain Said Border Couldn't Be Fully Protected Because Good Jobs Would Continue To Drive Illegal Immigration.  During a press conference, Sen. John McCain said: "We're not going to have a secure border as long as there's this kind of attraction of jobs into the United States of America. Our border between Arizona and Mexico is long, it's desolate and it cannot be fully protected 24 hours a day. The second issue is that, from a political reality, is there's a growing influence of Hispanic voters and Hispanic representation in the United States of America at all levels. And I believe that in a very positive fashion that influence can be meaningfully felt here in the legislative process because of the deep concern over both the humanitarian aspects of it, as well as labor protections, as well as citizenship is concerned." [McCain Press Conference via Lexis, 7/25/03]


2006: McCain: "We Need To Build A Wall And We Need To Enforce Our Borders." During an appearance on CBS's The Early Show, while speaking about immigration, McCain said, "We need to build a wall and we need to enforce our borders. But we're never going to solve the immigration issue until we have a viable guest worker program as well, and earned citizenship for the 11 million that are already here." [CBS, The Early Show, via Lexis, 2/1/06]

2007: McCain Said "I Got The Message, We're Going To Secure The Borders." Appearing on Fox News' Fox News Sunday, McCain told Chris Wallace that his position on immigration was a "mistake" and that "I got the message."

McCain: I think, as I say, we've made some mistakes.  But every campaign I've ever been in, there's been ups and downs in those campaigns.  I didn't expect it to be a day at the beach.  We've got good people running.

Wallace: I'm not talking process.  But what were the mistakes?  I mean, in a substantive sense, what were the mistakes?

McCain: Well, a little straight talk - immigration reform was something that Americans, because they didn't trust the government - they have not trust or confidence in the government.  They didn't believe us when we said we'd secure the borders.  I got the message, we're going to secure the borders.

Wallace: First.

McCain: First.  We're going to have to.  I'll have to have, as president, the governors of the border states certify that the borders are secured.

[Fox News Sunday, 10/21/07]

2008: McCain Said: "We All Know The American People Want The Border Secured First." During the January 30, 2008, Republican debate at the Reagan Library, McCain rejected his own immigration bill and used harsh rhetoric about immigration.

Hook: Senator McCain, let me just take the issue to you, because you obviously have been very involved in it. During this campaign, you, like your rivals, have been putting the first priority, heaviest emphasis on border security. But your original immigration proposal back in 2006 was much broader and included a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were already here.  What I'm wondering is -- and you seem to be downplaying that part. At this point, if your original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor, would you vote for it?

McCain: It won't.  It won't.  That's why we went through the debate...

Hook: But if it did?

McCain: No, it would not, because we know what the situation is today.  The people want the border secured first.  And so to say that that would come to the floor of the Senate - it won't.  We went through various amendments which prevented that ever - that proposal.  But, look, we're all in agreement as to what we need to do.  Everybody knows it.  We can fight some more about it, about who wanted this or who wanted that.  But the fact is, we all know the American people want the border secured first.  We will secure the borders first when I am president of the United States.  I know how to do that.  I come from a border state, where we know about building walls, and vehicle barriers, and sensors, and all of the things necessary.  I will have the border state governors certify the borders are secured.  And then we will move onto the other aspects of this issue, probably as importantly as tamper-proof biometric documents, which then, unless an employer hires someone with those documents, that employer will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  And that will cause a lot of people to leave voluntarily.  There's 2 million people who are here who have committed crimes.  They have to be rounded up and deported. ... We are all committed to carrying out the mandate of the American people, which is a national security issue, which is securing the borders. [CNN, 1/30/08; emphasis added]