John McCain defended a proposed immigration plan to an angry home crowd in Phoenix on Thursday. The Arizona senator was touring with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The appearance of prominent officials has suggested that Arizona will play a prominent role in the immigration debate, which President Obama will likely make a signature issue of his second term.
McCain hosted two town hall meetings on Tuesday to defend his immigration plan. He faced upset residents who are concerned about border security, reports Yahoo! News.
A bipartisan group of senators, including the two Arizona Republicans, are looking for assurances about border security. Congress is currently weighing what could turn out to be the biggest changes to immigration in the United States in the past 30 years.
Activists and elected officials have agreed that Arizona should take the forefront on the national conversation, because they have spent years on internal debate about the issue.
CNN notes that John McCain may have gotten more than he expected when he gave residents an invitation for him to answer “any comments, questions, or insults that you may have.”
The senator fielded several questions by residents who are frustrated with slow progress on the issue of illegal immigration. Several in attendance expressed their desire for stringent deportation programs, which McCain does not support. The Republican also spoke to the crowd about his work with the so-called “Gang of Eight,” which is working on an immigration bill suitable to both parties. McCain stated:
“We believe that there is a good, strong possibility that we come up with a plan and a proposal that most Americans would support. All I can say is that I’m guardedly optimistic.”
John McCain added that he believes immigration reform should have better border security and rely largely on technology to be able to detect border crossings.