22 May 2006

A Defining Moment

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On Meet the Press, yesterday, Senator Lindsay Graham, R-SC, was asked to follow up a previous comment by Tim Russert

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 (Rep. Charles Norwood R-GA) 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?

Lindsay Graham’s answer was perfectly correct.

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