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McCain faces backlash at home over immigration issue

Fuming Arizona constituents fired criticism at Sen. John McCain over illegal immigration at town halls Tuesday.

“You said ‘build the dang fence’ – where’s the fence?” one constituent named Keith Smith demanded of McCain.

“He doesn’t want the American people to stand up and ask him the tough questions and hold his feet to the fire,” Smith told NBC affiliate KPNX.

McCain told the crowd that Americans would not support a move to arrest all illegal immigrants in the United States and deport them. He also said he wouldn’t support an effort to make people who had been in the United States illegally for decades to become guest workers because “we’re a Judeo-Christian principled nation,” drawing an angry response from some in the crowd.

McCain is a member of a bipartisan group of senators which is now working on drafting legislation akin to the bill which the Arizona senator supported in 2007, in partnership with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D- Mass. and others, to create a process for illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents of the United States. That effort collapsed mostly due to conservative Republican opposition.

When McCain ran for re-election in 2010, he survived a challenge from a conservative, J.D. Hayworth, in the Republican priamry. And in the general election he emphasized the need for greater efforts to stop illegal immigrants from slipping over the Mexican border – rather than his previous support for a legalization process.