U.S. Sen. John McCain, R – Ariz., visited BASIS Oro Valley on Thursday to discuss issues affecting Arizonans and the nation.
While McCain focused largely on immigration reform, he opened by addressing the recent Boston Marathon bombing, criticizing the lack of cooperation between federal agencies.
The longtime Arizona senator said if information was better shared between the FBI, CIA, and Department of Homeland Security, the bombing that took three lives and injured almost 300 may not have occurred.
“There are a lot of questions that are unanswered, but one thing is pretty clear,” said McCain. “If the system had been working as the American people have every right to expect, this might have been prevented.”
McCain referenced the fact that Azamat Tazhayakov, one of the accomplices in the bombing, was allowed back into the United States following a trip to Kazakhstan, even though his student visa at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth had already been terminated months prior.
“Who was notified, and why not?” questioned McCain.
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard said recently that even though Tazhayakov’s was in the country illegally, his lack of a criminal record played a part in the failed deportation.
“If an individual has no criminal history or other derogatory information, then they typically do not present a priority case for ICE if ultimately they are unable to normalize their status with the school,” Boogaard said.
McCain, a member of the bipartisan group of immigration reform group known as the Gang of Eight, used the example of Tazhayakov to address the broader problem of illegal immigration and introduce his proposed solution: increased funding for border fencing, surveillance, and technology, and an e-verify program that would penalize employers for hiring illegal immigrants.
Alongside Sen. Jeff Flake, R – Ariz., McCain supports immigration reform that would put illegal immigrants on a 10-year probationary work period. Upon completion, immigrants would be allowed to apply for citizenship, after paying back-taxes, background checks, and fines.
McCain, who found support from the audience for his recent vote supporting background checks on gun purchases, found mixed reactions on the proposed immigration reform.
One audience member argued the bill would keep family members separated.
While McCain said he would further examine a resolution, he made it clear that illegal crossing in an attempt to reunite with family members will come with repercussions.
“I have no sympathy for repeat crossers of our borders…” said McCain. “If you think that I am in this business in order to have people move across our borders after this is over…you have the wrong guy as your senator.”
Fielding questions from the audience, McCain touched on various other topics, including his stance on Bengazi, where four Americans were killed after a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate.
“My friends – it’s a cover up,” said McCain. “After the attack on the consulate, people were evacuated from Libya to Ramstein (Air Force Base). Those people were involved in the fight. The State (Department) won’t even tell us those people’s names. They need to be interviewed.”
McCain also touched on the growing threat of Syria under dictator Bashar Assad, who has stated a willingness to use chemical weapons against any foreign country that intervenes in the government’s battle with it’s own rebels.
McCain says the outlook is not optimistic as outside parties exacerbate the situation.
“The situation has grown dramatically worse in that jihadists now, radical Islamists, are pouring into Syria from all over the Middle East – from Libya, from Iraq, from everywhere,” said McCain.
McCain said by the end of the summer, enough Syrian refugees will have fled to Jordan that it will make up half the country’s population.