Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Tuesday that former GOP Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s stance on denying illegal immigrants a path to citizenship could undermine the efforts of a bipartisan group of senators working on an immigration reform plan.
“He has been a great voice on immigration; he has been a good governor, understands the Hispanic community, “ Graham told reporters. “I just think this proposal caught me off guard, and it undercuts what we’re trying to do.”
Graham was referring to Bush’s new book, “Immigration Wars,” in which he and co-author Clint Bolick oppose a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
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“It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship,” they wrote.
“To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship.”
Bush has instead endorsed the idea of permanent residency for illegal immigrants.
Graham and other members of the so-called “gang of eight” in the upper chamber, who are drafting an immigration bill, would prefer a plan that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship after steps such as the enforcement of border security are taken.
“The idea of just permanent residency —that will be amnesty as much as a pathway to citizenship for a segment of the party, and I think it’s just as much of an inducement to say, if you come here you can spend the rest of your life. That’s not a deterrent for people to continue to come in the future,” said Graham.
“What I want to do is make sure that we don’t have a third wave. Long story short: Politically and substantively, I don’t think it’s a very good idea.”
Graham claimed that 72 percent of the 55 Democrats in the Senate support a pathway to citizenship.
“It’s just not practical,” he said about Bush’s proposal of permanent residency. “We’re not going to be able to pass any bill in the U.S. Senate without a pathway to citizenship.”
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