Senator John McCain expressed hesitation Thursday on a Trump administration-backed bill that would repress illegal immigration and establish a merit-based immigration system, The Hill reports.
In an interview with the Arizona Republic, McCain said he is not opposed to promoting such skills-based immigration, but voiced concern about how the measure could affect farm labor and other low-skilled work.
“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,” he said. “I wouldn’t do it. Even in my misspent youth, I wouldn’t do it.”
The measure proposed by Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue was backed by President Trump on Wednesday. The legislation would establish a system by which prospective immigrants are judged by their median salary, education level, ability to speak English and whether their skills are in economic demand.
McCain also said he’s prepared to restore a comprehensive immigration reform effort that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
McCain said he discussed the idea with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer prior to Schumer heading back home to start cancer therapy.
“Immigration reform is one of the issues I’d like to see resolved,” McCain told the Arizona Republic. “I’ve got to talk to him (Schumer) about when would be the best time. I think there are all kinds of deals to be made out there. I really do.”
Both McCain and Schumer were part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” – the group of senators who authored an unsuccessful comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013.
The Arizona Republican was skeptic about Trump’s proposition for a border wall, adding that the wall will be unsuccessful in stopping illegal immigration and drug trafficking across the border between U.S. and Mexico.
He noted that U.S. border security should invest more in surveillance technologies, like drones.
“I’m not against a border wall, okay, but go to China and you’ll see a border wall there,” he said. “We need technology, we need drones, we need surveillance capabilities and we need rapid-reaction capabilities.”
“But to think that a wall is going to stop illegal immigration or drugs is crazy.”