WATCH: John McCain faces angry opponents to immigration reform

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U.S. Sen. John McCain speaks during a town hall meeting in Arizona, Feb. 19.
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U.S. Sen. John McCain speaks during a town hall meeting in Arizona, Feb. 19.

"Cut off their welfare and all their stuff, and they'll go back!"

Sen. John McCain, a member of a bipartisan group pushing a comprehensive immigration reform package in Congress, on Tuesday faced angry opposition to his plan at two town-hall meetings in his home state of Arizona. In a scene reminiscent of the Tea Party protests that erupted in town halls across the country in 2009, McCain was assailed by a man identified as Kevin Smith for stealing Americans' Social Security and failing to "build the dang fence," as McCain famously promised he would do when running for re-election in 2010. "Cut off their welfare and all their stuff, and they'll go back," Smith said.

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McCain, for his part, gave as good as he got. "You're not telling these people the truth," McCain said. "[Immigrants] mow our lawns, they care for our babies." Still, the back-and-forth is a reminder of the perils the GOP faces in tackling the issue. McCain's career is indicative of the tortuous path reform-minded Republicans have had to take: He nearly lost the 2008 nomination over his position on immigration, then took a hardline stance during a 2010 GOP primary battle, before recently emerging, once more, as a reformer.

Watch another video of McCain's town-hall fight here:

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