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Updated Aug 12, 2013 - 4:36 pm

Sen. John McCain says immigration reform will create jobs

PHOENIX — Sen. John McCain is trying to convince Arizona business leaders
to support immigration reform by touting its impact on the state’s economy.

McCain said Monday that giving the 11 million people in the country without
legal status a path to citizenship will create jobs and end the `de facto’
amnesty they currently have.

The Republican told The Associated Press he is soliciting the business
community’s help during the summer congressional recess. He says House lawmakers
opposed to overhauling the nation’s immigration laws need to be convinced public
opinion is behind the overhaul.

“We all respond to our constituents,” McCain said. “Over 70 percent of the
people in Arizona support a path to citizenship if they pay back taxes, learn
English, get in line behind everybody who has waited legally, and so we hope to
convince them without being disrespectful to my House colleagues.”

McCain is touring the state during the five-week recess speaking about
immigration reform and held a round-table discussion at the Arizona Chamber of
Commerce and Industry on Monday. He spoke with the AP before the event.

He said passing and implementing immigration reform will reduce unemployment,
add significantly to the state’s income and create thousands of jobs. He said he
needs the business community to understand those results.

The Senate passed an overhaul bill in June, but it has stalled in the House
amid Republican opposition. It added billions of dollars for border security,
made changes to visa programs and included a new focus on workplace enforcement
along with eventual access to citizenship for the immigrants already in the
country illegally.

McCain was one of the Senate bill’s architects. He said he’s hoping support
from former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and a potential opening with
Republican House Speaker John Boehner will result in movement.

“There’s 11 million people who are here living in the shadows and they’re not
going to deport them,” McCain said. “That’s de facto amnesty. And the path to
citizenship is 10 years, it’s a couple thousand dollars in fines, it’s a long
process towards citizenship, at least 10 years, just in order to get a green
card. It’s very tough and arduous.”

Those who believe people who came here illegally should not be granted
citizenship are being overly harsh, McCain said.

“Look, we all break laws, and we pay a penalty for breaking laws, but we’re
not condemned forever,” he said. “There’s a time, a process, that you would
pay very heavy penalties for breaking our law but then are able to move forward
to become citizens.”

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