Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that he expects President Trump to sign legislation granting a pathway to citizenship for almost 11 million illegal immigrants.
Addressing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday, Graham said his plan is for Congress to address immigration in two legislative packages, the second of which would include a massive amnesty deal.
Phase one would grant a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought here as children, who were previously covered under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and would include moderate increases in border security. Phase two of the immigration plan, Graham indicated, would force Trump to sign legislation granting a pathway to full citizenship for almost 11 million more illegal immigrants in exchange for further border security and moving towards a merit-based immigration system.
Graham said Tuesday that he expects Trump to make significant concessions to Democrats in both phase one and phase two of the immigration package.
“So here’s what I would suggest to you. In phase one, to expect my friends on the other side to go comprehensive for us and DACA for them, it’s not going to happen. I’m telling my friends on the other side, DACA and nothing else is not going to happen. The sweet spot is DACA plus more than the DACA kids and making down payments on border security, moving slowly but surely toward a merit-based immigration system, to be followed by phase two,” Graham said.
“Phase two as I see it is we move further toward border security in its full sense, that we begin to find a pathway forward for the 11 million not included in phase one who are not crooks, drug dealers, rapists, felons, which is the overwhelming majority of the 11 million, that once we get a glad path for them, I expect in return that when they’re through the system, we’ll have a merit-based immigration system based on the economic needs of the country that will have a secure border and will increase legal immigration so people in the future don’t have to cheat,” Graham said. “Does that sound pretty reasonable?”
“It sounds like a phase two, Nielsen replied.
Trump signaled his openness to a two-phase immigration package in a televised meeting with Republicans and Democratic lawmakers last week. Trump also said that he is unlikely to veto any immigration bill that Congress passes. During that meeting, Graham again brought up the possibility of a massive amnesty package.
“I’ve been for a pathway to citizenship for eleven million people, because I have no animosity for them. I don’t want crooks, I don’t want bad hombres, I want to get a merit-based immigration system to make sure we can succeed in the 21st Century. I’m willing to be generous with the 11 million [illegal immigrants], I just don’t want to do this every 20 years,” Graham said.
Were Trump to sign a bill granting amnesty to almost 11 million illegal immigrants, it would represent a clear betrayal of the right-wing immigration hawks who supported his 2016 presidential campaign.
Jeb Bush is desperate – strongly in favor of #CommonCore and very weak on illegal immigration.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2016
Even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is deeply unpopular with the Republican base for his moderate stance on immigration, said he opposed a full pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants not covered by DACA. Bush supported permanent legal status for the 11 million but not full citizenship, which would reward illegal border crossers with voting rights and other privileges of citizenship.