A lot has changed since 2007, when John McCain was the #1 immigration compromiser in the U.S. Senate, leading the way with a large, bipartisan bill that would have given illegal immigrants an opportunity to become U.S. citizens while beefing up border security. That effort looked promising but ultimately failed, and McCain criticized how the term "amnesty" was used as a bludgeon against it: "Anything short of rounding up 12 million people and deporting them is called amnesty by the opponents of this legislation," he said during a visit to Carlsbad, California in May 2007. "I'll point out that (illegal immigrants) will have to pay back taxes, they'll have to pay a fine, they'll have to go back to their country of origin, and it's at least 15 years before they are in anyway eligible for citizenship."
"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.A temporary guest-worker program is a far cry from a pathway to citizenship; it's a mechanism to let more immigrants come here to work legally, particularly as migrant labor, but it's on the conservative end of the let-them-in spectrum.