John McCain’s goal: Get Arizona delegation to back immigration reform

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John McCain wants Arizona's congressional delegation to back immigration reform.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is persuading his Republican colleagues from Arizona to support the immigration reform bill that he helped put together. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is on a mission to convince Arizona’s congressional delegation to support the immigration reform bill that he and the other members of the “Gang of Eight” crafted.

To help with that effort, he is turning to supporters — including business and religious leaders — to help convince the state’s nine House members that approving his bill is the right thing to do.

The bill includes tough border security provisions and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The Senate approved it in July and it now sits in the House.

McCain said last week that having the Arizona delegation support the immigration bill would send a message that the state — which is known for its hardline stance on immigration — is moving forward on the issue.

“We need to get this issue done, and behind us,” McCain said at a roundtable meeting with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. “And especially, I might say, in the state of Arizona, which has faced so much controversy and so much publicity, that it would be great if we saw the entire Arizona delegation support this comprehensive immigration reform.”

But getting all nine House members from Arizona on board to support the Senate-approved immigration reform bill is turning out to be tough. While the state’s five House Democrats stand behind the bill, all four of the state’s House Republicans have said they’re against the bill.

Immigration reform takes back seat at GOP town hall

The immigration issue was almost absent at a town hall meeting that the four Arizona GOP congressional leaders held Thursday. They addressed other issues, including the unfair targeting of politically conservative groups by the IRS.

Some 30 pro-immigration reform supporters showed up to the event but didn’t get to speak. And even at a press conference following the first half of the town hall meeting, congressional staff members barred reporters from asking questions about immigration. Still, one reporter asked the GOP leaders about their stance on the issue.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) responded to the question, saying he supports his party’s step-by-step approach to immigration reform. He said he would like the House to first pass “small bills” that strengthen border security before addressing any other parts of immigration reform.

Trent Franks opposes the Senate immigration reform bill.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) opposes the Senate immigration reform bill and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. (VOXXI/Griselda Nevarez)

Gosar was also clear in his opposition to the Senate immigration reform bill. He called the bill “unconstitutional” and said he “will not allow it to come forward in the House.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told VOXXI after the press conference that he also opposes the Senate bill and would rather address immigration reform in pieces.

“The reality is that we have to take each of these different components one at a time and honestly and sincerely try do the right thing,” he said.

When asked whether he thinks a path to citizenship should be included in an immigration reform package, he told VOXXI of his wife, an immigrant who became a U.S. citizen at age 19.

“She did it under the legal construct of the law, and I absolutely embrace that with all of my heart,” he said. “But when we have those who circumvent the law and come here illegally and that somehow we create a path to citizenship that allows them to expedite their citizenship over those who didn’t break the law, then we see not only inconsistency but also injustice in the law.”

GOP support for immigration reform would be ‘a great achievement’

One House member who is standing behind John McCain and his immigration reform bill is Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.).

Ed Pastor supports the Senate immigration reform bill.

Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) expressed his support for the Senate immigration reform bill at a town hall event in Phoenix last week. (VOXXI/Griselda Nevarez)

At a town hall meeting last week, Pastor praised McCain for supporting immigration reform with a path to citizenship and for working to persuade his Republican colleagues to do the same.

He said having McCain achieve his goal of getting the four House Republicans from Arizona to support the Senate-approved immigration reform bill would be “a great achievement” and a “very proud moment” for the Grand Canyon State.

“Arizona, right now, has a tarnished reputation with SB 1070, the raids and all that,” Pastor told VOXXI. “And I think that if it showed a united delegation — including the two senators and all the nine House members — it would show that this state is united, at least in Congress, in supporting immigration reform.”

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