McCain defends immigration reform at testy town hall

February 20, 2013

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) defended his support for bipartisan immigration reform against angry constituents at a town hall Tuesday night in Sun Lakes, a Phoenix suburb.

One particularly hostile questioner accused McCain of giving taxpayers' benefits to undocumented immigrants and breaking a promise to get a fence built along the border.

McCain called the man a "jerk" and described listening to his questions as an "Orwellian experience."

There were other attendees who shouted disapproval of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the AP reports:

One man yelled that only guns would discourage illegal immigration. Another man complained that illegal immigrants should never be able to become citizens or vote. A third man said illegal immigrants were illiterate invaders who wanted free government benefits.

And Brahm Resnik of Arizona Nightly News described the meeting as "very rough," saying "a lot of Republicans in that room clearly did not care for immigration reform."

McCain is a member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" working to pass an immigration overhaul. Under the plan, legalization would be afforded almost immediately to the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, provided they pay back taxes and a fine. But the opportunity to pursue full citizenship would not become available until the border was secured and new systems were in place for employers to verify workers’ immigration status and for the government to ensure that legal immigrants cannot overstay their visas.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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Rachel Weiner · February 20, 2013