When the topic turned to responding to illegal immigrants, McCain said in an interview on KQTH-FM, Tucson: "No amnesty. Many of them need to be sent back."
McCain, who faces a Republican Senate primary challenge from conservative former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, has shifted far to the right from previous stands on immigration, The Hill reported.
In 2007, the Washington publication noted, McCain joined the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in cosponsoring legislation that would have established a guest-worker program and provided a path to legal citizenship for illegal immigrants.
During Tuesday's interview, McCain said a guest-worker program should be part of immigration reform but opposed a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The senator's comments came the day the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against Arizona's immigration law, saying it unconstitutionally interferes with federal authority.
The law, scheduled to take effect July 27, makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It authorizes law enforcement officers to ask people to produce documentation if there is "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally.