Graham Supports Senate Compromise on Immigration Reform
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today said he supported the Senate compromise bill on immigration reform. Graham participated in the negotiations with other Senators which led to the agreement. President Bush has expressed support for the bipartisan work of the Senate.
Under the agreement, illegal immigrants would be separated into categories depending on the length of time they have been in the United States.
* Illegal immigrants living in the country at least five years would be put on an eleven year path toward citizenship as long as they paid a $2,000 fine, passed a national security and criminal background check, remained employed, paid federal and state taxes, registered for military service, passed a civics test, and learned to speak English. They will not have to visit a port of entry.
* Illegal immigrants living in the country for two to five years would have the opportunity obtain a temporary work visa. They would be subject to the visa requirements (fines, background checks, taxes paid, etc.), but they must exit the country. These immigrants would be fingerprinted and processed through US-VISIT at a land port of entry for return into the United States. After no less than eleven years, they could become citizens.
* Illegal immigrants who have been in the country less than two years would be required to leave the United States. They could apply for temporary worker status, but would not be guaranteed to receive this status.
"For illegal immigrants in the United States more than two years, the Senate bill is similar to a plea bargain," said Graham. "They will have to come out of the shadows and acknowledge they came to the United States in violation of our immigration laws. The terms of probation will be to pay $2,000 in fines, undergo two national security and criminal background checks, remain employed, pay all federal and state taxes, register for military service, show proficiency in the English language and understand American civics."
"I think the terms of the probation are strict but fair," said Graham. "Some immigrants will meet the terms of their probation and some won't. Those who don't will face deportation. Those who do will then be able to go to the back of the line to apply for citizenship. We made the conditions strict to ensure people pay their debt to society and they do the right thing if they wish to live in the United States."
The legislation retains the language on border enforcement and worker verification which Graham acknowledged were major provisions to enforce any immigration reform effort.
Graham noted that one new provision was particularly important. It says that employers cannot offer a job to a guest worker until they verify the position was publicly listed at the prevailing wage and no American wanted to fill the position. This will help address concerns that guest workers will take jobs from Americans or depress wages in an area.
"I'm pleased the Senate has chosen to come together, along with President Bush, to provide a comprehensive solution to the immigration problems facing our nation," said Graham. "This problem has been neglected for too long. We need to secure our border and reform our immigration system now. We still have more work to do, but with President Bush's support I believe this can become law."
The bill also contains provisions toughening the physical enforcement of the border by construction of a virtual' fence which relies on cameras, motion detectors and other technological devices to monitor illegal crossings into the United States. In certain high traffic areas, a real fence would be similar to the San Diego Border Fence, a state-of-the-art nearly impenetrable barrier which made illegal entry into our nation much more difficult, will be constructed. In addition, the legislation calls for the hiring of an additional 12,000 additional Border Patrol agents over the next five years.
"The nation clearly has broken borders," said Graham. "With this comprehensive immigration bill, the nation no longer has a broken Senate."