Securing our borders is not enough: the Senator favors comprehensive immigration reform, including a temporary workers program, better employer verification, and a path to citizenship.
Question: How should we reform immigration policy?
Lindsey Graham: In 2007, we tried comprehensive immigration reform. I, along with Senator Kennedy, McCain, Kyl, Senator Menendez and others, put together a comprehensive bill that focused on border security, a temporary worker program so our employers could access labor from overseas in a win/win fashion. We had an employer verification system, making it harder to hire illegal immigrants and we did what I thought a rational thing with the 12 million illegal immigrants. We'd allow them to raise their hands, to identify themselves, and if they’d committed no crime other than breaking our immigration laws, they were given a legal status, and they could earn their way to citizenship only after getting behind those who are doing it right. So to come out of the shadows, you would be a biometrically identified, you would be required to learn our language, pay a fine for the crime you committed, get in the back of the line to become a citizen, and it would take from 8 to 13 years in that process to get to citizenship, if that was your goal.
So, I think that is a workable solution that needs to be refined. What’s happened from 2007 to now is the border is less secure and the violence in Mexico is getting out of control. So you have to look at 2010, 2011 immigration politics through the Arizona eyes. The people in Arizona feel under siege, they passed a statute that’s controversial, but other states are taking up similar statutes. So the tide is turned to where the American people are focusing on securing our borders, which I think is a good thing. But I think most Americans 2 to 1, still believe that you have to rational and logical when it comes to the 12 million.
On our southern border, life is not so good. If I lived in a southern hemisphere nation that had no hopes, I’d be enticed to come to America. And quite frankly, we’re going to need immigrants. We’re a declining population, as I said before. Japan has been very xenophobic; they don’t have a workforce. We’re going to need immigrants as far as the eye can see, I just want them to become legal and do it in a win/win way.
Recorded December 1, 2010
Interviewed by Alicia Menendez