Lindsey Graham is a Republican U.S. Senator from South Carolina. A lawyer with a degree from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, Graham served as an active-duty Air Force lawyer for over six years. In 1994, Graham was elected to the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina's 3rd congressional district. In 2002, upon Senator Strom Thurmond's retirement, Graham was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Since 1995, Graham has continued to serve his country in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and is one of only two U.S. Senators currently serving in the Guard or Reserves. He is a colonel and is assigned as a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School.
Graham serves on six committees in the Senate: Aging, Armed Services, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Budget, and Veterans Affairs.
Question: Why should we revisit the 14th Amendment?
Lindsey Graham: In 1866, they never envisioned the world in which we live in today, where we have a flood of illegal immigrants coming, mainly from our southern border.
The 14th Amendment has been interpreted three times by our Supreme Court to say that if you were born in the United States, even if you were here in illegal status or your parents were here in illegal status, you’re automatically entitled to citizenship. There are a lot of people who come to this country for the very purpose of having a child. Some break our law by coming across the border in our border states, to go to American hospitals to have a child, so that child will become a citizen, having an anchor to the country. There are other people, rich people mainly, from the Mideast and Asia, who come to America on tourist visas for the purpose of having a child in an American resort with a hospital to gain citizenship. I think those two ways of conferring citizenship really undermine the value of citizenship.
So I think that’s not an unreasonable request in a prospective fashion, to change the 14th amendment by allowing the Congress to set rules on citizenship.
And what I would say is if you’re a student studying here and you have a child, they’re automatically a citizen. If you’re a temporary worker and you have a child, you’re automatically a citizen. In other words, if you’re adding value to our country, if you have a good connection with America, then your child will be conferred citizenship. You would not be given citizenship under my proposal if you’re just visiting the country as a tourist, and you would not be given citizenship if you broke our law and had a child here in illegal status. To me, that makes sense. And I think that’s a logical way to move forward.
The American people are looking for solutions to prevent the third wave of illegal immigration. Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million, now we have 12. What I have to do to sell this in South Carolina is to prove to the people in my state we’re not going to have a third wave of illegal immigration 20 years from now. That’s why we need to look at the 14th amendment.
Question: Are you open to reconsidering other parts of the Constitution?
Lindsey Graham: I’m always open to making sure the Constitution makes sense in the time we live. I’d like to add the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I’m convinced that Republicans and Democrats are not going to do the hard things to balance our budget, saying no to different groups unless a Constitutional requirement to balance the budget, like most states have. So yes, I think the constitution is a sacred document in many ways, but it’s a governing document.
Recorded December 1, 2010
Interviewed by Alicia Menendez