Now, McCain finds himself in a different political situation, and so does the immigration issue. McCain lost the 2008 election, during which he was sharply criticized as an immigration liberal by his GOP primary rivals, and he's facing a primary challenge from Tea-Party-style candidate J.D. Hayworth. As a national issue, immigration has heated up after Arizona passed its new law and as a drug war has raged in Mexico.
McCain has changed with the times. The Hill's Mike O'Brien notices catches this snippet of a radio interview in his home state:
"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.
If the Senate is to forge any kind of agreement on immigration, it will need every vote it can get. Given McCain's present situation, it doesn't seem likely that he'll sign onto anything resembling what Democrats would want to pass--at least not before November.
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