May 17 2007

Graham Statement on Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made these statements on comprehensive immigration reform plan.

General Thoughts:

"Over the last few months, I have spoken with President Bush almost every week and met with him twice about immigration reform. Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Gutierrez have been there every step of the way. There would be no bill without their hard work.

"Today we charted a new path for our nation's immigration policies.

"We break the cycle of chain migration by placing a premium on the education and job skills of new immigrants coming to the United States. This new merit-based system is a major change in our nation's immigration policies and allows us to attract the best and brightest in the world.

"We reclaim control of our nation's borders by adding new Border Patrol agents and technology to stop illegal border crossings.

"We establish a new comprehensive employee verification system - for all workers including Americans -- to ensure people are in the country legally and eligible to work.

"We establish a temporary guest worker system to meet our nation's future labor needs. Temporary workers can come here and work for a defined period of time, but they must return to their home country.

"And we establish procedures to deal with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, allowing them to stay under our rules - not theirs. They will be placed on probation and pay fines, learn English, and assimilate into American society. If they want to become citizens -- a minimum 13 year process -- they will be forced to leave the United States and return to their country of origin. Only from there will they be allowed to apply for citizenship.

Is the Legislation Amnesty?

"Amnesty is a pardon and means all is forgiven. This legislation is not amnesty. President Bush made clear today he does not view it as amnesty and I agree with him.

"I hope all Senators, particularly those who were not part of the negotiations, will become more informed about the details of the bill before making incorrect statements.

"Here are the facts. Illegal aliens will have the opportunity to come forward and be fined, punished and placed on years of probation. Illegal aliens will not be allowed to jump in line for citizenship ahead of those currently waiting. If they want to become citizens they must pay fines, learn English, pass a civics exam, undergo background checks and leave the United States and return to their country of origin. The punishment is fair and just.

"The public expects Members of Congress to speak their minds, but be informed in their opinions. I would ask for everyone to take time to understand how the bill works."