NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 15, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) differ on immigration?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of McCain's positions on immigration.

Border security:

  • In the interest of national security, McCain first wants to secure the nation's borders, ports and other entry points, and to require border-state governors to certify that their borders are secure.
  • He then would pursue other reforms, such as allowing illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship.
  • McCain has called for deploying additional personnel, physical and high-tech barriers and surveillance equipment on the borders and for more-effective screening of cargo entering the country.

Legalization/path to citizenship:

  • McCain has called for the immediate roundup and deportation of the estimated two million illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds.
  • He would allow the remaining 10 million illegal immigrants to earn citizenship if they pay a "substantial" fine and back taxes, learn English and "get to the back of the (citizenship) line behind everybody else" with legal status.

Legal immigration:

  • McCain voted for comprehensive bills that would have increased legal immigration and would have revised the system of allocating green cards to give priority to immigrants' education and job skills over family ties.
  • He also voted for comprehensive bills that would have created an expanded program used for computer registry to match foreign workers with businesses that need temporary help.
  • A new program remains high on his agenda.

Employer sanctions:

  • Would require employers to use a new electronic employment verification system to certify that all employees are legal.
  • Workers would need "tamper-proof, biometric" identification cards.
  • Employers who knowingly hire illegal workers would "be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Source: "McCain on Immigration," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


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