MSNBC Meet The Press - Transcript - Part 1 -

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 21, 2006
Location: Unknown


Meet The Press - Transcript -

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MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.

Congressman Norwood, Senator Graham, welcome both.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Good morning.

REP. CHARLIE NORWOOD (R-GA): Good morning, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Graham, Senator Norwood put out a press release. "He's going to appear on MEET THE PRESS and debate Senator Graham who supports a Senate plan to grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants." Why did you do that?

SEN. GRAHAM: Why did I put it out?

REP. NORWOOD: I put it out.

MR. RUSSERT: Why—do you support amnesty for all illegal immigrants?

SEN. GRAHAM: No. Amnesty to me is what Jimmy Carter did with draft dodgers. "Come on back and all is forgiven." This is a pathway to citizenship that takes 11 years. I agree with the president. There's got to be some middle ground between mass deportation, which won't work, or putting 11 million people in jail, which won't work, and immediate citizenship.

This bill doesn't grant anybody immediate citizenship. If you fail to learn English, you've got to pay a fine, you've got to constantly be employed for 45 days for a six-year period, then you get a green card and you have to do the same thing all over again for five more. So at the end of 11 years, you are eligible if you make—go through all these gates to get at the back of the line to become an American citizen. There is no determined outcome. The outcome is dependent upon what the individual does. If you do the things we ask of you for 11 years, in my opinion, you're a value-added product to the American economy and the American culture and we'd love to have you.

MR. RUSSERT: Why would you define that as amnesty?

REP. NORWOOD: Well, the definition of amnesty is elusive. It's sort of like the word is. We can't seem to agree on what amnesty actually means. What I think the Senate bill basically says is that if you are a foreigner and you've come in our country illegally, they say you can stay and at some point in time you can become a citizen. Now, that's sort of what they came here to be here for to start with. They came here illegally to stay and we're actually saying in the Senate bill that you can do that. And I also want to point out, I don't know anybody that has a bill that requires mass deportation. Nobody is saying that. We're not suggesting that that's the solution. We are suggesting, though, that if you allow people to come into the country illegally and reward them for being here illegally, which is what you're doing when you say you can stay, you can be on our social programs until finally you can become a citizen. That's...

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman, what happens to the 11 million illegal immigrants now in our country?

REP. NORWOOD: What happens to them when?

MR. RUSSERT: Well, if the Sensenbrenner bill that you support is adopted.

REP. NORWOOD: Yes, yes.

MR. RUSSERT: Do they become felons?

REP. NORWOOD: Well, first of all, the Sensenbrenner bill should become adopted because that basically does what the American people want, which is secure the border. Now I was standing about 10 feet from Chairman Sensenbrenner when he offered to remove that part about felons and the Democrats refused to let him remove it.

MR. RUSSERT: What happens if that legislation passes to the 11 million illegal immigrants?

REP. NORWOOD: Well, I've got a plan for what ought to happen to the 11 million illegal or 11 to 20...

MR. RUSSERT: If the Sensenbrenner bill passes, what happens?

REP. NORWOOD: Nothing really happens at that point except we secure the border. At some point we have to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants that are here. We have to deal with a guest worker program. But nobody's really very willing to do that, Tim, until you secure the border.

MR. RUSSERT: But should the 11 million illegal immigrants be sent home?

REP. NORWOOD: Sent home, no, no. We need to have them go home on their own through attrition. Now, this is a Charlie Norwood program, it's not in either bill, but there is a way to handle this without any mass deportation, without running people off immediately, but eventually letting them go back home, get in line, come back into America through a work program, and then become a citizen if they like.

MR. RUSSERT: They have three million children who are American citizens. So when the mother and the father go home, what happens to the children who were born here...

REP. NORWOOD: Well, obviously, the children go home, too, unless they're of age. I mean, I'm sorry these people broke our law, but we are a country of laws, and they did break our law. They knew it when they came, and the consequences of that is at some—under my plan—under some point, two years, three years, they will voluntarily go home.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, you have said this: "This is a defining moment for the Republican Party. ... If our answer to the fastest-growing demographic in this country is that ‘We want to make felons of your grandparents, and we want to put people in jail who are helping your neighbors and people related to you,' then we're going to suffer mightily."

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, at the end of the day, as you try to walk me and Charlie through what to do with 11 million people, there's respect for the law and there's justice. If the law doesn't create a just result, what good is it? I think it's not fair for a nonviolent offense to result into upheaval that would be required, a mass deportation, or making people felons.

If you're going to make 11 people—million people felons, you ought to put them in jail. There are young Marines in Iraq right now of Hispanic origin whose parents, maybe grandparents, are illegal. I think it would be hard for this country—unfairly hard—to say to those young Marines, "Thank you for your sacrifice. While you're gone, we've made your parents and grandparents felons, and we're going to break your family up."

We as a nation have sat on the sidelines and watched this happen. Most Americans know for a long time, many years, that Hispanics have been coming across our border, working all throughout our economy, and it's like "Casablanca." Now we're saying, "I can't believe there's gambling going on here."

Respect for the law and a welcoming society, as President Bush says, are not inconsistent. Pay a fine, get punished for breaking our law, let's don't break families up, and in an impractical way, a way that would send the wrong signal as who America is in 2006.

MR. RUSSERT: But when you talk about the fastest-growing demographic group, you seem to be fearful of a political backlash to the Republican Party.

SEN. GRAHAM: Everything politicians do has to have a political component. What's the practical solution to 11 million people here that have come here to work and are working? We've got 4.7 percent unemployment. They're not displacing Americans because it's the lowest unemployment in history. We've got 4.1 percent GDP growth, wages are growing.

My point is that as a party decides what to do with hard problems, the party needs to show its ability to recognize more than one concept. Respect for the law is an essential ingredient of the American culture. But justice also is part of the law. So I agree with the president totally. Let's secure our borders. I agree with Charlie Norwood, my good friend. Let's lock the borders down the best we can, but let's don't pass on to the next generation of politicians what to do with 11 million people. Why do we want to send every problem down the road? Let's do it all together, comprehensively, and we'll be rewarded at the ballot box not just by Hispanic voters. Three-fourths of the American people are ready for a comprehensive solution. Will the Republican Party deliver for three-fourths of Americans?

MR. RUSSERT: But isn't this a debate over the future of the Republican Party in many ways? You believe that states like New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado—swing states—could go Democratic if Hispanic voters are angry at the Republicans.

SEN. GRAHAM: I believe—yes. I believe it's deeper than that. I believe that we got a fast-growing demographic I want to send the right signal to. One, "You're welcome to be part of this party, you're welcome to be in America under conditions that make sense, and you have to earn your way to become a citizen over 11 years." It's not about the next election. What Republicans need to get away from is fear of the next election, and do things that are good for the country down the road. Down the road, it would be great to solve both problems, border security and deal with the 11 million. Have a tamper- proof ID card.

Immigration's about employment. People come here because they can get $50 dollars a day, and in Mexico they get $5 dollars a day. I want a system where employers can have an honest opportunity to employ people, but if they do it dishonestly, they pay a price.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Norwood, one of your colleagues, Congressman Rohrabacher from California said, "[The President's proposal] is a nonstarter for the American people, and the Republican Party will pay a price at the polls."

REP. NORWOOD: Oh, yeah, we're going to pay a price in 2006 and 2008 if we don't do what the American people want us to do. And number one, very clearly—I know for sure in my district, I'm positive in Georgia and I'm positive in South Carolina—they want this border secured. Now, the president took the first right step the other day with the National Guard. Unfortunately, that's not near enough, we're going to have to add about 30,000 to it to actually shut the border down. Wait...

MR. RUSSERT: So, the president, the president said 6,000 Guard not involved in arresting people, you're saying 30,000 American troops?

REP. NORWOOD: Well, I'm--30,000 plus the six...

MR. RUSSERT: More Guard?

REP. NORWOOD: I'm talking about National Guard. Look, Tim, in 1916...

MR. RUSSERT: Would they be involved in apprehension?

REP. NORWOOD: They—of course they're going to be—eventually, they're going to have to be. We put the National Guard in 1916 down there, the Georgia National Guard went to the border, along with 100,000 other National Guard troops that were federalized. Why did we go? Because 18 Americans were killed in New Mexico. They went down to deal with Pancho Villa. They were down there for three years. That's where we got a Border Patrol. It is that bad now, so think the American people. And we will pay in 2006 and 2008 if we don't do this.

MR. RUSSERT: President Bush, according to his Congressman Sensenbrenner, doesn't get it. Do you agree with that?

REP. NORWOOD: Well, I, I would have said that maybe a month ago. I'm beginning to think he does get it. He made a very courageous step in being the first president I'm aware of that actually came out and stated what the problem is. Nobody's even been willing to say what the problem is. Then, by sending the National Guard down there, he is signaling, "We don't have enough Border Patrol, we cannot have enough Border Patrol for at least 2008," and that is not satisfactory to the voters in South Carolina and Georgia, they want the problem solved now.

MR. RUSSERT: But if President Bush signed legislation being supported by Senator Graham, Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy, which would have a path to citizenship, would...

REP. NORWOOD: He won't have to sign it, because it'll never come out of a conference. That is terrible legislation on so many different fronts.

MR. RUSSERT: It won't pass?

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