Graham Wants Immigration Overhaul Next Year

Posted August 1, 2010 at 9:23am

Updated: 11:35 a.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham called on Congress to turn to border security and fix the nation’s “broken” immigration laws next year.

The South Carolina Republican called for a temporary worker program and proposed turning Social Security cards into biometric documents that verify the holder’s identity and legal status to employers.

“If we all agree to do that as a people, you wouldn’t have to look at somebody based on their accent or their background. You would have a document that is trustworthy and verifiable,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“I’m willing to do the hard things. I’m willing to push my party,” Graham added. “But at the end of the day, the Democratic Party has to be willing to push their base.”

He said the debate over Arizona’s tough new immigration law has “re-energized interest about fixing immigration,” although he said the law has hit a legal wall since a judge’s ruling last week that blocked most of its controversial provisions. That includes the portion that would require state police to determine the immigration status of people who they suspect may be in the country illegally.

In an interview on Fox News last week, Graham proposed denying “birthright” citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants to decrease the number of people entering the country illegally. He did not discuss the proposal Sunday on “State of the Union.”

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said he suggested to Graham that lawmakers should first hold hearings with constitutional experts “to at least tell us what the state of the law on that proposition is.” Individuals born on U.S. soil are granted citizenship under the 14th Amendment, with some exceptions.

Graham is a prominent Republican supporter of overhauling the nation’s immigration laws, but he has characterized Democratic efforts to bring up an immigration bill this year as election-year politics. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that he may be forced to settle for pursuing a narrow measure this fall and leaving a comprehensive effort for later.

Kyl criticized the administration for an internal memo from the Department of Homeland Security titled “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”

“That’s the kind of thing that the American people don’t like,” Kyl said about the memo, which Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) exposed last week. “They want enforcement of the laws, not bureaucrats trying to figure out a way around the law.”