Sen. Lindsey Graham believes the timing is finally right for comprehensive immigration reform, but the South Carolina Republican knows he will have to win over conservative voters in his own state before the laws can be overhauled.
Graham is one of the bipartisan Gang of Eight in the Senate that is working to draft immigration legislation. One of the key sticking points is providing the estimated 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally with a path to citizenship. Many conservatives oppose the idea.
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Still, Graham told The New York Times
during a swing through his state that “2013 is the best chance to have a comprehensive immigration bill that I’ve seen,” adding, “I am confident.”
The two-term senator said he supports making undocumented immigrants legal after a “long” and “challenging” path, including paying a fine and back taxes, and learning English.
Graham first tried to overhaul immigration in 2007, but he was criticized by several South Carolina Republican organizations. “Politics went bad for me after the efforts failed,” he said, calling that time “sort of the wilderness years for immigration.”
The GOP has been more willing to embrace immigration reform since the November election, however, when the Hispanic vote was key to President Barack Obama’s re-election.
Graham is up for re-election in 2014.
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