Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., defended his bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed the Senate in 2013.
“I’m proud of the legislation that I worked across the aisle to address the issue,” McCain said at his central Phoenix campaign headquarters, via AZCentral. “The disappointment, obviously, is with the House of Representatives for not acting.”
The Senate bill, S.744 “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” received bipartisan support during the 113th Congress, including support from two current Republican presidential candidates. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., were co-sponsors of the bill and voted in favor on June 27, 2013.
Despite receiving a majority of votes, 68-32, the next legislative chamber — the House of Representatives — never picked up S. 744 for debate.
“I know that many on the right were not persuaded because they didn’t act in the House of Representatives,” McCain said. “And my question to them is — and I think it’s legitimate, and they’ve never responded — give me your solution to the problem.”
The Senate bill called for several hundred miles of fencing on the southern U.S. border, in addition to an employment verification system for all employed, potentially-undocumented immigrants. The bill also included training for nearly 38,405 full-time active duty U.S. Border Patrol agents, and it would have allowed the U.S. Attorney General to increase the number of immigration court judges and reform the visa process.
“I said we needed to build a fence, and I was one of those who shaped legislation that passed the United States Senate that calls for 20,000 additional Border Patrol [agents],” continued McCain. “Six-and-a-half billion dollars to build the fence, and I’m proud of that.”
Despite being a co-sponsor, Rubio has strayed away from S. 744. Earlier this year, before announcing his presidential bid, Rubio said a discussion on immigration could not take place unless it is proven the issue can be controlled. Rubio said the current legal immigration system is “too generous” and there is no mechanism to enforce current laws.
In May, Rubio said he still believes in comprehensive immigration reform, but “the problem is the votes aren’t there in the House.”
“If we want to move forward on immigration reform, the first thing we are going to have to do is prove to the American people that future illegal immigration is under control,” said Rubio.
Graham maintained his support for the bill, and said opposition would further divide the Republican Party and Latinos. He said in June, “If we become the party of self deportation, if that again is our position in 2016, we’re going to drive a deeper wedge between us and Hispanics.”
“A pathway to citizenship, after you secure the border, control who gets a job, more legal immigration where they have to pass a criminal background check, learn the English language, wait 10 years before you can apply for a green card,” said Graham, later adding, “If you solve the immigration problem in a good, American, responsible way, our party’s back in the game and we can dominate the 21st century.”