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McCain lowers expectations for immigration reform

Republican Sen. John McCain (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Republican Sen. John McCain (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Sen. John McCain worked to lower expectations surrounding his plan for immigration reform and hinted at difficult disagreements in Congress during an emotional town hall meeting in his home state of Arizona on Monday that saw people on both sides of the debate exchange fiery insults.

The raucous exchange illustrated the passion of the debate across the nation as Congress weighs what could be the biggest changes to immigration law in nearly 30 years.

At one point, a 25-year-old woman stood up and begged McCain and others not to call her and her family illegal immigrants and instead use the term undocumented. Some laughed at her, and one man called out, “I’d like to be called Irish.”

Another testy exchange saw a Hispanic businessman complain about being pulled over and asked for proof of citizenship near Tucson. “We are human, we are not slaves,” he said. An elderly white woman yelled back, “but you’re illegal.”

The town hall meeting followed a more one-sided, but equally heated exchange at a town hall in February in suburban Phoenix, where McCain faced down rebukes from a largely older, white crowd opposed to immigration reform.

McCain said the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on immigration legislation in the Senate, has agreed on more work visas for workers and protections for illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, but declined to provide specific details. He cautioned that he was “guardedly optimistic” that Congress would pass reform this year, even as President Barack Obama renewed his call to lawmakers Monday to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.

“Whether we will agree or not, I don’t know,” McCain told the more than 150 people gathered at a Phoenix community center.

McCain repeatedly urged civility during the meeting Monday, but he also stepped in and took sides.

He told the young woman who asked to be called an undocumented immigrant that he would continue to use the term illegal because it’s accurate. Many civil rights and Hispanic groups consider the term illegal immigrant offensive.

“You can call it whatever you want. I think there is a big difference between someone who does something illegal and not being documented,” McCain said, earning cheers from those opposed to immigration reform.

When immigration activists stood up to thank him for trying to get something done on the issue, McCain warned, “You are not going to be completely happy with this legislation.”

At another point, McCain and some Hispanic activists laughed at a man who asked how he and other immigration critics could stop “amnesty.” McCain also cut off a Mexican woman who said immigrants should come to the country legally as she did.

“It’s not acceptable to have 11 million people living in the shadows of this country,” McCain said. “If you believe they are not living in the shadows, I’d like to know what the hell shadows are?”

3 comments

  1. Naturally, no one expected anything more out of John McCain! McCain is a pathological and compulsive liar that tells one blatant lie after another. McCain is a racist, he even voted against the MLK Holiday. All McCain is now doing is playing the Latino vote, but the Latinos are too smart for the old guy. McCain is exactly what’s wrong with the Republican party. He’s a old, bitter, hateful white man.

  2. Join, we, the people, in holding the line …

    NO AMNESTY, NO PROTECTED LEGAL STATUS

    we, the people, stand united against amnesty, protected legal status, or whatever else they choose to call it … this isn’t about party, this isn’t about votes, and above all this isn’t about race, nationality, ethnicity, color, or religion … this is about protecting America, our sovereign nation, against an invasion by 10′s of millions of illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants who broke our laws when they crossed our border; or overstayed their visas. Then came document fraud, identity theft, and illegal employment. We are a nation of laws; we, the people, do not reward those who wantonly break our laws. We, the people, want our existing federal laws against illegal immigration enforced … nothing more, nothing less … it’s as simple as that … it really is

    we, the people, can take matters into our own hands, by becoming proactive …WHAT IF? … as well as trying to win the illegal immigration battle against overwhelming odds, with emails, and petitions, to those who aren’t listening … that being the illegal immigrants themselves, their very well organized advocates, the news media, the Democratic legislators, the Republican legislators seemingly desperate to win Hispanic votes, and President Obama, none the less …. we, the people, reduce the battle down to where, you, as an individual, with nothing to lose, and everything to gain, hit illegal immigrants where it hurts, by staging a passive protest at the opposition’s weakest point, that being a nationally franchised retail business employing illegal immigrants, with customers to lose, and nothing to gain … and if that isn’t enough impetus for you. you will be joined by two, three, four, or even five, or more, like-minded persons, to help you in this quest … and if that wasn’t enough, you also have the law on your side. …. when we begin to take the jobs away from illegal immigrants …. we begin to take away the reason illegal immigrants are here.

  3. Who created the law to turn “undocumented” (misdemeanor) to “illegal” (felony) = BILLIONS of $$$’s for the private prison corporations, the elite (a handful), destruction of the middle class taxpayers, who have to pay for it all, to mass incarcerate hundreds of thousands of human beings, tearing apart families for $$$$’s?

    Senator McCain, These undocumented people who lived and worked here to build Arizona’s luxury homes, resorts, office buildings, universities so you and your cronies could make millions, would appear now to have been exploited and are disposable to you. What a bunch of hypocrites. Meanwhile, we know many people who will NEVER set foot in Arizona and certainly won’t start businesses or move their families to the state the “carpetbaggers” want for themselves. Immoral, unethical and shameful.

    We call and write your offices, Kyle’s and Trent Franks, you are ALL out of the same “cloth”. Don’t know how you sleep at night. I’m ashamed of what all your GOP leadership turned America into — #1 Jailer in the world.

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