Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated that a vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would likely take place after Thanksgiving. Before the holiday weekend was even over, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) didn’t hesitate to declare the DREAM Act dead on arrival. On Fox News Sunday, Graham stuck to the GOP’s enforcement-only party line:
From this discussion, the one thing I can tell you is not going to happen is the DREAM Act. She’s [Sen. Claire McCaskill] talking about voting against comprehensive immigration reform — I support it done right. Why would you give legal citizenship to 2 million people without securing the border first?
Graham voted against the DREAM Act in 2007, so it’s not a huge surprise that he’s against it now. However, that doesn’t excuse his distorted justification.
To begin with, the DREAM Act wouldn’t grant anyone citizenship. Instead, it would allow some young undocumented immigrants who fulfill the necessary education or military requirements and undergo a background check to obtain legal residency. To become a citizen, they would have to go through the naturalization process that all immigrants who seek citizenship must complete.
Furthermore, a study by the Migration Policy Institute revealed that although slightly more than 2.1 million undocumented immigrant youth could be eligible to apply for legal status under the DREAM Act, only 38% — or 825,000 — of them would likely gain permanent legal status.
Finally, though Graham has supported immigration reform in the past, he and his party are largely responsible for blocking it in 2010. Apparently Graham’s idea of immigration reform “done right” amounts to holding it hostage to health care reform, pitting it against climate change legislation, and then turning his back on it altogether and declaring his support for changing the 14th amendment to deny the U.S.-born children of immigrants citizenship.
With that said, Graham’s exchange with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) — who is neither a champion of immigration reform nor the DREAM Act — highlighted the fact that Democrats are not unanimously in favor of pro-immigrant policies. Though the majority of the Democratic Party supports immigration reform proposals, as long as lawmakers like McCaskill are opposed, so-called “moderate” Republicans like Graham are needed to get those pieces of legislation over the finish line.