Graham, who won re-election in 2014, also told South Carolina residents who oppose the DREAM Act not to vote for him.
“I have come to believe that comprehensive immigration reform, whether done in piecemeal fashion or done comprehensively, is absolutely essential for our national security. It’s absolutely essential for our economic viability and I want to stop the third wave [of illegal immigration] and never do this again. We have got to have a practical solution to the 11 million,” Graham said at a press conference today alongside Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Both were members of the bipartisan Gang of Eight who drafted the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill.
“I am hoping we can find a pathway forward with President Trump. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the man who started his campaign talking about illegal immigration in a very tough way would be the man who started the country on the path of solving the problem?” Graham added. “This problem will not fix itself.”
The South Carolina senator said he agrees with the Trump administration’s emphasis on securing the border and focus on deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes in the U.S., but he wants to see Trump work to fix the nation’s “broken” immigration system. Graham said that Trump is the only leader who could persuade the GOP to support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“Here’s what changed. You have a president who, if he said tomorrow the border was secured, most people would believe him on my side. I could put alligators on the border and I’m not getting there,” Graham said, adding that the Gang of Eight “literally militarized the border, but I don’t have the power he does to tell the Republican base that we have achieved border security.”
“What has changed? You have a president who could in a snap of his fingers get the Republican Party united more than Bush could – persuade people who feel threatened by illegal immigrants that they’re going to take their jobs and commit crimes against their family and persuade them that this is a fair thing to do unlike President Obama was able to do. What has changed? A man in the White House who could take the people who object the most and with a coherent, from-the-heart speech change everything,” he said.