I am pleased to report one of the most refreshing comments I’ve heard on immigration reform this cycle. Senator Lindsey Graham, already known for his support for immigration reform, gave a strong defense of the border security measures in the 2013 “comprehensive reform” bill that passed the Senate but later foundered in Congress:
We did everything but put alligators [at the southern border]. We literally militarized the border…
I’m not sure I agree with “literally militarized,” but the benchmarks put forward in the bill were pretty strict. In fact, most opposition to the bill focused less on the air tightness of the security measures than general distrust with the President’s willingness to carry them out, a complaint that will (hopefully) not apply by the end of next year.
Graham then went on to endorse a path to legal status:
If we’re still playing this game of denying the reality of immigration reform politics, forget about 2016… I am not going to sign a bill if I am president that doesn’t have an earned pathway to citizenship…If we allow you to stay — criminals are not welcome, bad-deed doers off you go — but if we’re going to let you stay the rest of your life, then you can earn your way to citizenship – get behind those who have done it right, pay a fine, learn the language, lots of hurdles — but I want you to have a chance to be part of us. I don’t like the hired help approach.
Given a emerging consensus among both candidates and Republican voters for a path to legal status, Graham’s statement is a smart move that puts him far ahead of most other candidates on this issue. After Graham’s stirring performance bridging the gap between social conservatives and Hispanics at the Susan B Anthony List gala last week, I wouldn’t entirely count him out for the nomination.
Nick Arnold is a researcher for American Principles in Action.