After serving for five years in the Senate and perhaps nearing the close of his political career, John McCain wants immigration reform to be his legacy’s crowning achievement, while Jeff Flake, a newcomer to the upper chamber, having spent 12 years in the House of Representatives, believes that reform is vital to keeping the Republican Party competitive and winning over Latino voters.
Beyond that, however, the two Senators from Arizona, who have become leaders in the push for immigration changes this year, see the legislation as a chance for their state to be able to repair its reputation, which has taken a battering in recent times thanks to the fight over Senate Bill 1070, which was accused of encouraging border vigilantes and using racial profiling.
McCain and Flake both believe that changes to immigration are vital for Arizona, which is the primary gateway for illegal immigration, possesses one of the best biggest populations of undocumented immigrants and has also faced political blowback for coming up with laws to try and deal with the federal program.
Flake and McCain took a political gamble participating in the bipartisan Gang of Eight, who came up with the immigration bill that was passed by the Senate back in June. “It’s so rare these days for politicians to be leaders and take risks,” says the executive director and founder of pro-immigration reform organization America’s Voice, Frank Sharry. “When that wasn’t happening, Arizona was defined by the likes of (Gov.) Jan Brewer and (Maricopa County Sheriff) Jon Arpalo and (former state Senate President and SB 1070 sponsor) Russell Pearce.”