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Wednesday
Feb202013

John McCain Defends Immigration Plan at Testy Town Hall

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(SUN LAKES, Ariz.) -- Sen. John McCain defended his immigration reform proposals during a contentious town hall event on Tuesday in his home state.

The Republican senator from Arizona is a member of a bipartisan group of eight senators crafting a bill that contains a pathway to citizenship for many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants. But he heard an earful from constituents who were unhappy about the plan and want more to be done to secure the border.

Speaking at the event in Sun Lakes, a suburb of Phoenix, McCain defended the plan to grant a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who pass a background check, pay fines and back taxes, learn English and get to the back of the line for green cards, saying the government should show mercy to those individuals.

He explained during the event that the Senate plan would provide for further border security measures and that the path to citizenship would be contingent on more security metrics being met, according to media reports. But he rejected the notion that the federal government has done nothing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

"You said build the danged fence," an angry questioner yelled at McCain, referencing one of the senator's 2010 campaign ads, "Where's the fence?"

"That's not a fence? It's a banana," McCain shot back. "We've put up a banana with about $600 million of the appropriations we have."

The event got so heated at one point that the Arizona GOP senator lashed out at a man who identified himself as a former police officer, according to the Arizona Republic.

While many Republicans, including McCain and his Arizona counterpart Jeff Flake, have voiced support for immigration reform, the town hall is a sign that many grassroots conservatives are still wary of the plan being crafted in the Senate.

After the event, McCain downplayed any controversy.

"Oh sure, there are people that are unhappy," McCain said, according to the Republic. "Most of the people in here are happy. Most of the people in here agree with me."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio