Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told an audience at Harvard Wednesday that while he opposes automatic amnesty, the reality is illegal immigrants are “not going him,” calling the current situation “de facto amnesty” that requires a proactive solution from Congress.
At Harvard University's John F. Kennedy Jr. forum Wednesday, McCain told told the audience that the federal government has no practical means of deporting the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the country, arguing that the current situation is "de facto amnesty" that requires action involving a path to citizenship:
They're not going home. And so why don't we give them a path to citizenship... There are not enough buses to deport them. It's de facto amnesty.
McCain has pushed for immigration reform repeatedly in the last decade. In 2005, the senator worked on a comprehensive bill with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill, which failed in the Senate in 2007. Last year, McCain was also a member of the so-called "Gang of Eight," a group in the Senate who helped pass the immigration reform bill which thus far the GOP leadership in the House has blocked.
McCain defended the Senate bill to the Harvard crowd Wednesday, arguing that while the bill does provide a path to citizenship, it does not offer automatic amnesty, calling it “really tough” and explaining that it would take years for immigrants to change their illegal status. But some path to the citizenship, he argued, must be offered:
If you keep these people in the shadows, it is a stain on America’s honor.
McCain argued that GOP support of immigration reform was a necessity for the viability of the party, warning that “the Republican Party will never win another nationwide election unless we enact comprehensive immigration reform."