McCain favors immigration reform that would deport ‘many’ illegal residents

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday he would favor immigration reform that would deport many of the residents of the United States who are here illegally.

McCain, who at one point had been the top Republican advocate for immigration legislation promising a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, said he favored establishing a guest worker program. But McCain expressed opposition to any program that would give illegal immigrants a way to become citizens.

“No amnesty. Many of them need to be sent back,” McCain said during an interview on KQTH-FM in Tucson, Ariz.


Once the border is secured, McCain said, “a temporary legal worker program has to be part” of immigration reform. But he made it clear that program would be for those who want to enter the country as part of that future program, and not those who came to the United States illegally.

The Arizona senator has tacked rightward on immigration and other issues since the 2007 battle over immigration in Congress, when he cosponsored legislation with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) that would have established a guest worker program, and provided a path to legalization for illegal immigrants. Part of that shift has been pressure on the right from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), who’s waging a primary challenge against McCain this cycle based in large part on immigration-related concerns. 

McCain emphasized that even the guest worker program he continues to favor would be strictly temporary, with violations of that law enforced to the letter of the law.

“Part of any reform has to be a legal, temporary worker program that is truly temporary,” McCain explained, adding that, under his program, “employers who employ people who are here illegally are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Updated 1:53 p.m.