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In 2006 and 2007, Flake co-authored the STRIVE Act, an immigration reform bill that included a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants. When asked on Tuesday by Mother Jones whether he’d still support a pathway to legalization, Flake soft-pedaled his response but defended his previous views on immigration. “I’ve always felt that, like I said, nearly half of those who are here illegally didn’t sneak across the border. They came legally and have overstayed. So border security is the number one item, but you’ve got to do other things as well,” Flake said in an interview just off the House floor.
When pressed to clarify whether such measures would include a pathway for legalization, Flake agreed that “some mechanism” was necessary. “We’ve dealt with it before with a provision that required [undocumented immigrants] to go home and register,” Flake said, appearing to refer to a provision in the STRIVE Act that would give qualified undocumented workers a six-year work visa—but also required them to “touch back” and return to their home countries before being able to become legal residents. The congressman emphasized, however, that “nothing else is going to move” until Congress does more to strengthen border security.