Sen. John McCain said Tuesday that a comprehensive immigration bill “may not” include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants but that Congress would be acting at its own peril if it doesn’t include one.
“I hope [it does]. It may not,” the Arizona Republican said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “But if it doesn’t, then we have ignored the lessons of some European countries who, as you know, have had mass immigration from other countries, and they live in their own enclaves and they don’t assimilate. The greatness of America is the assimilation of wave after wave of immigrants that’s come to this country, which has made us the greatest nation in the world.”
Mr. McCain said that beyond giving immigrants legal status, he doesn’t see what can be achieved without a path to citizenship — which President Obama and other Democrats say must be part of any comprehensive bill.
Sen. Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, said that citizenship is a “fundamental issue” for many immigration reformers — and that there are some lawmakers who really have a problem with that issue.
“So we will never solve that problem because that’s an essential part of what Democrats insist on,” Mr. Menendez said on MSNBC.
The Senate voted 67-27 Monday to advance a plan that would require a total of 700 miles of fencing within a decade and an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents, signaling that a full bill could pass the chamber sometime this week.
But regardless of what gets through the Senate, it still must clear the Republican-led House, which Mr. McCain predicted would be a “tough slog.”
“[B]ut I remain guardedly optimistic that eventually we will have this done,” he said. “… At least one thing everybody agrees on, I think, is the status quo is unacceptable, to have 11 million people living in the shadows, and they’re not going to self-deport.”