While he is a supporter of a merit-based immigration plan, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he wouldn’t support the Trump-backed immigration bill that would favor green card applicants who can demonstrate skills because he’s concerned about how it would impact farm labor in his home state.
“I think you have to consider that we do want high-tech people, but we also need low-skilled people who will do work that Americans won’t do,” McCain told the Arizona Republic during a sit-down with its editors and reporters this week. “I wouldn’t do it. Even in my misspent youth, I wouldn’t do it.”
The RAISE Act, which was announced Tuesday by the President and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), would favor green card applicants who demonstrate skills, education and language ability over relations to people already here. It also seeks to cut legal immigration in half over the next decade.
“Immigration reform is one of the issues I’d like to see resolved,” McCain told the local paper. “I’ve got to talk to him (Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer) about when would be the best time. I think there are all kinds of deals to be made out there. I really do.”
Just before leaving Washington last week to undergo treatment for brain cancer, McCain said he spoke with Schumer (D-NY) about reviving immigration reform discussions. Together, the two lead an unsuccessful 2013 bipartisan reform effort, coined the “Gang of Eight.” Their legislation looked at border security and a path to citizenship, as well as visa reform.
“Basically it’s what we passed last time, brought up to date with the new challenges, like opioids,” he said. “It’s still there. We got 68 votes, I think, the last time. I don’t think that’s going to be any different next time.”
He said he isn’t against a border wall, but would rather see the U.S. use technology, drones and “rapid-reaction capabilities” to address the issue.
“To think that a wall is going to stop illegal immigration or drugs is crazy,” he said.
McCain is not the only Republican to come out against the merit-based immigration bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) released a statement Wednesday saying the cuts to legal immigration would be “devastating” to his state’s economy.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) made similar comments.
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