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PolitiFact: McCain's views on immigration shifted before J.D. Hayworth entered Senate race

The statement

"Up until two weeks ago, John McCain was a leading proponent of amnesty. Now with me challenging him, suddenly he has changed."

J.D. Hayworth, in an interview April 28 on the Fox Business Network

The ruling

Former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who is running against incumbent John McCain for the Arizona Senate seat, said McCain very recently changed his tune on immigration. And we found McCain has shifted positions. But did he do so only after Hayworth entered the race?

In 2007, McCain pushed a reform bill that would have created a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally. Many Republicans criticized it as "amnesty." Since then, McCain's rhetoric has shifted. In a 2008 presidential debate, asked if he would still vote for his 2007 plan, he dodged, saying border security should come first.

McCain also was long against the idea of using National Guard troops on the border. In 2001, he told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that troops are not trained for the job. But, on March 26, 2009, he said on his website that, given the violence along the border, he supported using troops for security. And about a year later, McCain joined Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl to introduce a plan to use National Guard troops, with no mention of a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens.

McCain cited the change of heart on April 19, telling O'Reilly, "I changed (my mind) over a year ago, as you know.''

McCain has backed the new Arizona immigration law and has not supported a Democratic plan with a pathway to citizenship much like his 2007 bill. A spokesman said he hasn't abandoned the option of a pathway to citizenship, but only "once the borders are secure.''

We asked Hayworth's campaign to pinpoint where McCain has flipped in recent weeks, and a spokesman said that he believed that McCain was running ads revealing a change. We saw nothing to substantiate Hayworth's claim. McCain started favoring border security over a pathway to citizenship long before Hayworth was a contender. We find Hayworth's claim to be Pants on Fire.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version — and to read other rulings — go to

PolitiFact: McCain's views on immigration shifted before J.D. Hayworth entered Senate race 05/06/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 6, 2010 10:37pm]
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