WASHINGTON — South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham confirmed Thursday he is in the process of reaching out to former “Gang of Eight” members to help him craft legislation that would protect immigrants who illegally entered the country as children from deportation.
Graham and other Gang of Eight members — Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, and Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet — crafted immigration legislation in 2013 that passed the Senate but was never taken up for a vote in the House.
Graham wants to replace President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order that deferred deportation for about 750,000 young illegal immigrants and allowed them to get work permits.
“I hope members of Congress will say, ‘Listen, if we repeal the executive order the right thing to do — the thing that will make America great — is to deal with these kids humanely and fix this problem comprehensively,'” he told reporters.
He added, “It’s not a substitute for immigration reform. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Graham appeared unconcerned that legislation he is presently crafting may anger Donald Trump supporters.
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When asked by The Daily Caller if the Republican base may look at such legislation as a betrayal, Graham responded, “I would say that if the Republican Party wants to throw these kids back in the shadows that we’ll have stabbed ourselves in the back. We will stab America in the back.”
“I think I want Trump to do the right thing, which would be to repeal the executive order but not ruin these kids lives’ until we have a chance to fix it,” he continued. “And if you don’t think that’s the right thing, then I think you’ve lost your way as a human being.”
Presently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is not accepting new applications for the DACA or DAPA programs as a federal district court in Texas issued an order that temporarily blocks them from being implemented. The Supreme Court upheld the injunction following a 4-4 tie, which deferred the decision back to the lower court.
Since Graham and other Republicans previously believed that the GOP would lose badly in November, plans to resurrect the Gang of Eight had been in the works.
Politico reported in July that Graham, who believed Trump would lose badly in November, wanted to get the Gang of Eight back together.
“I’ll tell you what I’m going to do in 2017,” Graham told Politico. “I’m going to take the Gang of Eight bill out, dust it off and ask anybody and everybody who wants to work with me to make it better to do so.”
“The hour we can move it, we’ve got to move it,” Flake said back in July. “If they don’t [understand the urgency], we’ll do another autopsy after the next election and we’ll determine we’ve got to do it,” citing an in-depth autopsy of what went wrong for Republicans in 2012. The review recommended the party improve its relations with Latinos by supporting immigration reform legislation.
Rubio, however, was skeptical about another Gang of Eight bill, telling Politico at the time, “I don’t believe that a comprehensive approach can pass, nor do I believe at this point, given everything that’s transpired, that it’s the right way forward.”
Menendez and Durbin were also interested in getting the gang back together, but Durbin seemed doubtful that it would be possible to bring all four Republicans back to the group again.