MSNBC Meet The Press - Transcript - Part 2 -

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

Meet The Press - Transcript -


REP. NORWOOD: It will not come out of a conference. The House Republicans will not let that happen. And it has more to do than just the 11 to 20 million illegal aliens that are here. It has as much to do with the legal changes in immigration that that bill has in it, that the Heritage Foundation just pointed out, at least over the next 20 years...

MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me show you what you said, because it affects Senator Graham because you, you mention his state. "We are by default agreeing to allow an additional four million illegal aliens into our country, the equivalent of the entire population of South Carolina. ... Think about that, we're being asked to add a 51st state, populated entirely by low-income illegal aliens."

REP. NORWOOD: That was stated based on the fact we don't do anything for the next four years but piddle around with this issue and get another million a year into the country.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham?

SEN. GRAHAM: My numbers have never been higher at home, and people disagree with me somewhat on immigration. The reason I'm doing fairly well at home is because people believe I'm trying to solve problems. Three-fourths of this country is willing to accept strong border security and a pathway to citizenship. A majority of Republicans in this country are willing to allow these 11 million people to earn their way to citizenship over time if you have a process that brings out the best in America: paying a fine for your crime, learn English, always keep a job, criminal background checks. We're getting tough in the Senate bill on border security: 370 miles of new fences, you've got to learn, learn English. We're making it tougher, but from a comprehensive view, I don't want to oversell, I don't want to come on this show or go back to South Carolina and tell you I've solved the problem by putting 30,000 people on—and the National...

MR. RUSSERT: But Congressman Norwood said your proposal is never going to see the light of day, it will not get out of the House.

SEN. GRAHAM: Just, just let me finish here. The point I'm trying to make is, if the Republican Party can't sit down with each other and work through a hard problem like this, and the president is our leader and he's given us the road map to success, if we walk away from the table, the American voter is going to walk away from us. We're in charge of the House, we're in charge of the Senate, we're in charge of the White House, we got nobody else to blame. Three--35 percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstays, it's got nothing to do with the border. You have to do more than one thing at a time: Secure the border, reform your legal system, and honestly deal with 11 million people in a way that gets results good for the economy, good for the American legal system. That's what I'm pursuing, that's what the president's proposing. I am hopeful that we can make Charlie feel good about the border security aspects, and I'm hopeful that we can talk to each other about a reasonable solution to 11 million people living among us who want to work, and we need the workers.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you something, Congressman Norwood, from the Wall Street Journal, conservative editorial page, "According to ... the Pew Hispanic Center illegal immigrants represent less than 5 percent of the U.S. workforce, yet they make up 24 percent of those working in farming occupations, 17 percent in cleaning services, 14 percent of construction laborers, 12 percent of those in the food preparation industries. Many of these occupations are among those expected to grow the fastest in coming decades." That's what they do now. And those job sectors are only going to grow as we become more and more a service country.

REP. NORWOOD: Right. That's why we need a good work—guest worker program. I'm not saying we don't. I'm not saying that you can't, you have to deal with these 11 million people who've broken our law. Now if we going to sell citizenship for $2,000 dollars and say, "OK, come in, everything's fine," for $2,000 dollars...

MR. RUSSERT: But what do you do with the farming industry, the food industry, the restaurant industry, the construction industry, if you suddenly say to those people, "I'm sorry, go home"?

REP. NORWOOD: I didn't say that. Who's saying that? I didn't say that here. He says mass deportation, the president says mass deportation. None of the rest of us are saying mass deportation.

MR. RUSSERT: So they stay?

REP. NORWOOD: There's a way to do this. They stay by checking in with the federal government. They go to an Ellis Island Center. Call it what you want. Put 200 of them up. If you're here just to work, come in and let's have a, a fingerprint, an eye scan, check your public health and give you a work card that has a chip in it that says, "OK, pal, you can stay for another two years, three years," whatever Lindsey wants. "And then you have to go home. The date of your return home is in this card." You go home in three years, you get back in line, and you come back into America again.

MR. RUSSERT: Would that disrupt the American economy?

REP. NORWOOD: Those, no.

MR. RUSSERT: Not at all?

REP. NORWOOD: No. The 11 million people'll still be here. The ones who don't come check in are the ones that're terrorists, gang dealers, drug dealers, the people we—criminals—the people we want out of this country. And they're the ones who would be felons for not checking in with the federal government.


REP. NORWOOD: Now, you asked why would they do that. I'll tell you why they would do that. Because if they don't, they going to get fired.


REP. NORWOOD: Because their employer's going to pay a price for harboring people that don't have a work card.

MR. RUSSERT: How many illegal immigrants do you think live in your district?

REP. NORWOOD: I don't know. I truly don't know. I know that there is a lot in our state. I have a lot of poultry, I have a lot of landscape, so I do have a lot of illegal immigrants that are working there. I am not saying run them all out of the country at one time. That's silly. First of all, you can pass all the laws you want to for that and you can't get it done. What you have to do, incentivize the worker, incentivize the employer to get this done.

MR. RUSSERT: What's wrong with that plan?

SEN. GRAHAM: I am glad I came on this show. If we had another 30 minutes, we might solve this. So we're finding some common ground here.

REP. NORWOOD: Lindsey and I could solve this.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, well, the bottom line is, politically, is how do you bring the Senate, the House and the president together to do something the American people would appreciate? I think the American people'd appreciate strong border security; they think it's overdue, and we need to deliver. I think the American public would appreciate legal reform where employers would actually go to jail themselves if they hired illegal people. And a system that would work when it comes to how you employ people.

What to do with the 11 million. Charlie understands they're part of our economy. That's a absolute fact. Charlie understands you can't mass deport people because it's impractical and it would hurt the economy.


SEN. GRAHAM: He also understands that if you make 11 million people felons they're never going to raise their hand and get that card. People are not going to come out of the shadows if the consequence of coming out of the shadows is that you break the family up or that you become a felon. So some middle ground between mass deportation and making everybody a felon, give people a chance to be part of the American dream. Under our conditions, not theirs.

If you'll do what's required in the Senate bill for 11 years—not one year, for 11 years—you get rewarded in the sense that you're at the back of the line and you get a shot at citizenship. But before you get that shot, you do have to pay a fine. Punishment for a nonviolence offense. You have to pass two English exams. You have to be continuously employed, and you go through a criminal background check. Under the Senate bill, if you're a felon you're ineligible for the program. If you commit, committed three misdemeanors you're ineligible for the program. Those are the people we don't want because of what they did. The people I want to be part of America are honest, hard-working, decent people who want to raise a family, work hard, and make something of themselves. We need them now as much as we've ever needed them, and I don't want to drive them away because we've got a hard political problem. I want to assimilate people into our society that can add value, that can make this a stronger nation, and do it in a fair way.

MR. RUSSERT: You want to allow them to stay? Congressman Norwood says that they have to go home. At some time.

SEN. GRAHAM: We are now to the point of where this is a good, honest debate. What is rewarding people unfairly? I don't mind some of them going back, because under the Senate bill, if you been here less than two years, you have to go back.

REP. NORWOOD: There won't be anybody here less than two years that'll have papers saying, "We all were here after 2000."

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, well, I think—I understand, Charlie. We got a pretty good system in the Senate bill to document when you came and what status you're in. If you don't believe that works, why issue the tamper-proof ID card? I do believe, Charlie, that we could get a tamper-proof ID card as you described.


SEN. GRAHAM: That would honestly account for who's in our country. They would get employed under our terms. This is doable if we'll talk with each other. We're the Republican Party in charge of every branch of the government. We've got nobody to blame but ourselves. If we get this right, we do well in ‘06 and ‘08 and decades to come. If we blow this and let it not happen because we won't talk to each other, then we will pay mightily in the short term and the long term. I'm optimistic our president's going to lead us to a solution here.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Norwood, Governor of Arkansas Huckabee said this, "Defending President Bush's stand on immigration," he said, "that some anti-immigration Republicans are guilty of demagoguery and racism.

"‘If I were to say that some of it is driven by sheer racism, that would be true,' said the potential Republican presidential candidate in 2008."

REP. NORWOOD: Huckabee may run for president, I don't know. I don't have any comments to remarks like that.

SEN. GRAHAM: Tim, can, can I make a comment about that remark?


SEN. GRAHAM: On the out—on the fringes, there are people who want deportation. There's the "boil in oil" crowd. That's a very small group of Americans. They're not particularly Republicans, they're just angry people. Charlie Norwood is one of my best friends and we don't see it completely the same, but Charlie is driven by the concept that the law matters and you don't reward people who break the law. I'm driven by the concept of the law mattering with a just result. If you don't have a just, honest result, then the law doesn't matter.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, when there was a vote on the amendment to make English the official language...


MR. RUSSERT: ...Senator Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate said, "This amendment is racist. I think it is directed basically to people who speak Spanish."

REP. NORWOOD: Dr. No is at work again. Who cares what he says? That's the silliest comment I think I have ever heard in my life.

MR. RUSSERT: Can you get a deal with Senator Graham? Can you, in fact, have tough borders, a guest worker program, but also a humane policy for the 11 million illegal immigrants that are here and three million children?

REP. NORWOOD: Well, Lindsey and I, Lindsey and I could do that. I want you to be as concerned about American children that are involved with this, too. Not just the three million children that are here that are Mexican citizens or from—their parents are Mexican citizens and they happen to be born here. I'm worried about the, the, the Georgia citizen, the New Mexican citizen. I mean, part of what these 11 million people do is they're drawing down on our social programs in a large way—meaning education, Medicare, Medicaid. The Mexican Consulates are putting the word out. "If you're here illegally, go try to get on Medicaid and Medicare." We have to deal with that. That is not the right thing to happen.

MR. RUSSERT: Are they paying taxes as well? And Social Security taxes as well?

REP. NORWOOD: I don't think—I don't know what they're paying. Nobody else knows, either. None of them are paying much income tax, so I'm told by employers, because they all plead that they have 12 or 13 dependents. I don't know about the Social Security part.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman, can you get an arrangement with Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy, Senator Hagel, Senator Martinez, Senator Graham?

REP. NORWOOD: Oh, it's possible. Lindsey and I could—I'm pretty sure Lindsey and I could come to an agreement. Where I come from is I want to do what the American people want us to do. They feel like that just a slap on the wrist for having broken is our law is simply not enough. What, what they're talking about is like a bank robber who stole $100,000 dollars and we say to him, "If you'll just turn yourself in, we'll fine you $2,000 dollars and you don't go to jail and you get to keep the $100,000 dollars." What I want to do is not quickly have everybody leave, but orderly let them go home after working another—whatever Lindsey wants—two years, three years, and then come back in line. By then, we'll have a good guest worker program. And I want to be humane to those people that are in line, too. Those six million people who are trying to get in here, let's give them a chance to come and do some of the jobs you were talking about earlier.

MR. RUSSERT: We'll find out. To be continued, Senator Graham, Senator—Congressman Norwood.

SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: And we'll have you back and see if we can resolve this even more.

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. Next week.

MR. RUSSERT: We'll be right back.

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