In a February 10, 2004 letter to a constituent, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) sounded a lot different than he does today about illegal immigration. McCain, a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” said in the letter almost a decade ago that illegal immigration “represents a threat to our national security.”
“Every year, millions of people enter this country legally, in a monitored and controlled manner,” McCain wrote. “However, an increasing number of people risk their lives to cross our borders illegally. According to U.S. Border Patrol apprehension statistics, it is estimated that almost four million people crossed our borders illegally in 2002.”
Between October 2003 and when McCain wrote this letter in February 2004, he noted, “over 200 people have died, 113 along the Arizona border.”
“Although over 99 percent of the people crossing our borders do not intend to harm Americans, we must be cognizant of the fact that a small number do,” McCain added later in the letter. “As long as we are unable to control and monitor who enters our country and what they bring in, Americans will not be safe.”
“We must establish a system which will allow people seeking work to enter the country in a safe manner, through controlled ports of entry – freeing up federal agents to monitor the border and focus their efforts on the individuals who do pose a potential threat to our national security,” he argued.
Ironically, the rhetoric McCain used in that 2004 letter is exactly what opponents of the “Gang of Eight” Senate immigration bill are calling for: a focus on security, enforcement of the law, and improving legal immigration channels.
But McCain’s letter was pushing for a piece of legislation that would have legalized America’s illegal aliens in the country at that time, giving them work permits. Similar to the current immigration debate, in 2004 McCain argued that such action was “not an amnesty program.”
“All people who participate in this program must pay a fine and have to wait a period of three to nine years before they are naturalized,” McCain wrote in 2004, a phrase that sounds shockingly familiar to the arguments pushed now by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and other younger GOP lawmakers.
The Gang of Eight bill would, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), at best only stop 50 percent of current illegal immigration. Despite the CBO’s estimate, McCain’s immigration ally Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) infamously said on the Senate floor during the fight over immigration that “illegal immigration will be a thing of the past.”
The 2004 McCain letter surfaced on the website of Georgia immigration activist D.A. King’s organization, the Dustin Inman Society. The Dustin Inman Society is named for a young man who was killed by an illegal alien in a car accident in Georgia in the early 2000s. The illegal alien responsible for the crash that took Inman’s life–and put his parents in comas that they have since awoken from–escaped law enforcement custody and remains at large.