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PHOENIX (AP) -- The federal government has failed to address illegal immigration in the Southwest and needs to wake up, Sen. John McCain told Hispanic leaders Saturday.


"It is in our national interest to bring the 8 to 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and allow them an opportunity to become citizens of this great nation," McCain said at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza.


The Washington-based civil rights group and political think tank dedicates itself to promoting Hispanic issues.


McCain said federal policy and border enforcement have failed to alleviate the deaths of migrants crossing the sweltering southwestern desert and the extreme violence of immigrant smugglers who often hold victims for ransom once they have transported them into America.


He said the most recent failure is the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles in Arizona that use thermal and night-vision equipment to help Border Patrol agents spot illegal immigrants trying to cross the desert into the United States.


"That ignores the fundamental problem," he said. "Where there's a demand, there's a supply ... There's a demand for people to fill jobs that Americans won't do."


Until people recognize that demand, he said the illegal immigration problem will go unsolved.


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