Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”. The press briefing was held on April 18, 2013:

I think it’d be appropriate to refer to the bill as the Schumer-McCain bill because these two Senators really started this process and they have the smallest egos among us. And they would wear it better than the rest of us.

But this – I hope the third time is the charm. This is the third time I’ve been involved in trying to fix this problem.

I think 2013 is the year of immigration reform. I really do believe it.

We’ve got Baptist ministers, Catholic priests, union bosses, Chamber representatives. We either are going to get a bill or have one hell of a fight.

Why do we have 11 million illegal immigrants? More people couldn’t get here for whatever reason.

America is an idea. No one owns it. It’s not owned by race or ethnic group or any particular religion. It’s an idea – for 200 years it’s grown and gotten better. We will always have a problem – as long as we keep that idea intact – of people wanting to come here. That’s the good news.

The bad news is we have a right and responsibility to control who comes here for the good of our nation and for the world at large.

So the fact that we have so many people want to come here any way they can come here – if they have to walk through the desert or swim a river with a kid on their back, they will come. And that’s a testament to what we’ve done as a nation for 200 years.

And all we’re telling the world and our neighbors and our friends and our fellow citizens, we’ve got to create order out of chaos.

Because if you’re here illegally, it’s not much of a stretch for a guy from South Carolina to imagine what life must be like to live in this country illegally, not knowing if the next knock on the door is somebody coming to take you and your family away. It’s not much of a stretch for a guy from South Carolina to understand what it’s like to live along the border in Arizona and Texas and have people go through your backyard, cross your property at night and do havoc…

I think we’ve provided a solution worthy of this nation.

About the pathway to citizenship – learn the language, pass a civic exam, pay a fine, work, pass a criminal background check – half of my family would be excluded. This is no easy task. I am glad we’re not applying it to ourselves.

The hope is that America, I know, is ready for immigration reform. You look at all the polls. Is the Congress ready to do something that we should have done a long time ago? I really believe we are.

If you think the border can be better secured, we have an idea for you to consider.

If you think there’s a shortage of legal labor and the current is too hard to access, we have an idea for you to consider.

If you’re an union member or just an average American worried about losing your job because of cheap labor coming into our country, we have an idea to prevent that.

If you’re in the shadows and you worry about what’s going to happen to you, we have a solution – you’re going to have to earn the right to be an American. It’s fair. It’s tough. But it’s going to be available.

I’ve got one goal: When this is all said and done, there will not be a third wave of illegal immigration.

Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million people trying to do the right thing and the Congress failed to follow through.

If we give the 11 million a second chance and we don’t secure our borders and fix a broken immigration system and provide access to legal labor and do all the things we should have done 20 years ago, shame on us.

This bill fixes the problem in my opinion. I’m going to fight for this bill.

If you got a better idea, bring it on. But if you want to kill it, we’re going to have a talk about that.

I’m going to read one paragraph: “We’ve always welcomed newcomers to the United States and will continue to do so. But in order to qualify for the honor and privilege of eventual citizenship, our laws must be followed. The world depends on America to be strong economically, militarily, and ethically. The establishment of a stable, just and efficient immigration system only supports those goals. As a nation, we have the right and responsibility to make our border safe, to establish clear and just rules for seeking citizenship, to control the flow of legal immigration, and to eliminate illegal immigration which in some cases has become a threat to our national security.”

That paragraph sums up what I’m trying to do.

To our fellow citizens, we know Congress is broken. This is an effort by four Democrats and four Republicans to prove to you and the rest of the members of the Senate and eventually the House it doesn’t have to stay broken.


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