Columns

Graham to GOP: Support 'Amnesty'; Hispanic Community ‘Should be Our Voters'

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the Republican-led Congress should offer a path to citizenship for DREAMers now and pass a bill that deals with border security and “chain migration later” in exchange for granting “amnesty” to all undocumented immigrants.

Rather than waiting until Congress can agree on some sort of comprehensive immigration package, conservatives in Congress have argued that any deal granting legal status to “Dreamers,” called so in reference to the DREAM Act, should be tied to additional border security measures, such as funding for the border wall and legislative language that prevents “chain migration,” or family reunification, in the future.

Graham disagreed with that approach and explained why the GOP should support a two-phase immigration proposal.

“You’ll never convince me that the way we’ve handled immigration hasn’t hurt us with the Hispanic community, a community that should be our voters. So I am hopeful we can get through phase one. I’m hopeful we can go on to comprehensive,” Graham said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday.

“Most Democrats want a deal. Most Republicans have gotten to the point where we’ll deal with the 11 million if we get something for it. Amnesty used to be ‘you’ve got to boil them in oil and if you’re not willing to do that you’re soft.’ Amnesty moved to ‘they can stay here but they can’t be citizens.’ Now amnesty is ‘chain migration,’” he added.

Graham said he believes that President Trump wants to ultimately achieve comprehensive immigration reform and that he is the “only guy” who could make it happen, compared to past presidents.

“I’m in two camps. I believe we should take care of the DREAM Act kids now, not wait until March 5, and we should increase defense spending now so those who think we’re going to get away, as Republicans, while getting all we want on defense now and we’ll deal with the kids, the DREAM Act population, closer to March 5 when their backs are against the wall – that is nuts,” he said. “And I am going to take this message to the floor of the Senate and I am in the camp of doing something right by the ‘Dreamers’ and doing something right by the military, and do it now and do it together.”

After offering legal status to the “Dreamers,” Graham envisions “phase two” of immigration reform involving more border security and addressing “chain migration” by limiting citizenship petitions to the “nuclear family” only.

“Secure the border firmly and completely. We’re going to deal with the visa overstays because if you don’t you’ve left 40 percent of the illegal immigrants behind. If you don’t increase legal immigration, you’re hurting the economy,” the senator said. “And one of the reasons people hire illegals is they can’t find workers and they cheat, so we need a national E-Verify in the future to make sure employers are doing it right.”

Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also said he supports Trump talking to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un without preconditions.

“All I can say is I don’t mind talking. To me, it’s fine to talk without preconditions. Here’s the talk. I don’t care if Trump talks to him. ‘Hey guy, you need to knock this off. If you keep this up, we’re going to make sure that you never have the ability to hit our homeland. We’re not trying to change your regime. We’re not trying bringing democracy, but if you keep this up there’s going to be a war and you’re going to lose it. Thank you very much,’” Graham said.

“I want him to understand what comes his way if he keeps building the capabilities he’s hellbent on developing and I want Trump to prove to China, South Korea, Japan, North Korea that he means it. I think he means it. And the one thing about the Olympics is, I think, it will be taken as we really don’t mean it. How do you tell somebody in one breath, ‘hey little rocket man, you are evil, you are bad,’ whatever, and then invite him to the biggest party on the planet?” he added.

Graham said there are “some red lines” in Trump’s mind that the North Korean regime would have to cross before the situation escalates further.

“I know there are some red lines that our intelligence community believes exist. I’m certainly not going to share them publicly,” he said.

Graham emphasized that a military strike is the last resort and “diplomacy has to be used to its full extent.”

“I don’t mind talking. I wouldn’t even put any conditions on talking because I want to deliver the right message,” the senator said. “Let’s try to engage China to the fullest extent possible – use carrots, use sticks, whatever we need to do.”

Trump told the AP this week that is he is open to sitting down with Kim Jong-un, but he’s “not sure that sitting down will solve the problem.”