Even as President Obama and others blast Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigration, Sen. John McCain, the state’s senior Republican, defended the law Monday and blamed the federal government for foisting the problem onto the states.
“If you don’t like the legislation that the Legislature passed and the governor signed in Arizona, then carry out the federal responsibilities, which are to secure the border. You probably wouldn’t have had this problem,” Mr. McCain said on the floor of the Senate.
Arizona’s law makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. Mr. Obama last week said the measure could violate civil rights, and a series of groups are readying lawsuits to try to stop the measure, which takes effect in July.
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But Mr. McCain and Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona’s other Republican senator, said the state government is reacting to a situation that’s spiraled out of control. They pointed to a rancher killed in the United States last month and to tens of thousands of deaths just south of the border that have been blamed on drug cartels as evidence the region is not secure and that extra steps are needed.
The two men have called for 3,000 troops from the National Guard to be deployed to the border and for the Justice Department to start jailing illegal immigrants they catch.
Mr. Kyl said mandatory jail time, which has been tried in some places along the border, has proved to be a good deterrent to illegal crossings.
Mr. McCain is up for re-election this year and is locked in a tight primary battle with former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a noted foe of illegal immigration. Mr. McCain has in the past supported efforts to legalize illegal immigrants but has said this year that the focus instead needs to be on the deteriorating security situation.