A looming court decision threatens 800,000 young people with deportation. Luckily for them, they have an unlikely ally: GOP Senator Lindsey Graham.
Until recently, the White House at least claimed to support the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which protects those who grew up here but their parents brought them to the U.S. illegally. Now, McClatchy reports, GOP officials from 10 states have threatened to challenge the program through the courts.
Some worry that President Barack Obama’s 2012 program doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on, and could get struck down as early as September. One of them is Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The Post and Courier reports he and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) gave a press conference on Thursday to introduce their Dream Act. The bill calls for tighter border security with a path to citizenship.
Dick Durbin gave a two-minute introduction, explaining that the Dreamers don’t deserve to be punished for their parents’ actions. He then gave over the floor to Lindsey Graham. After taking care to voice support for stronger borders and giving “bad hombres” the boot, he cut to the chase. For starters, Donald Trump promised these young people if they play by the rules, they’d have legal status and a path to citizenship.
“The question for the Republican Party is, what do we tell these people? How do we treat them? Here’s my answer. We treat them fairly. We do not pull the rug out from under them.”
And if we send them home, what would that mean?
“And if you told them to go home, they would go where they were raised. They are no more connected with a foreign country than I am.”
Lindsey Graham points out the Dream Act is not charity. It imposes some tough standards. These young people would have to earn their legal status by jumping through all kinds of hoops. They have to stay out of trouble, get a high school diploma or GED, and avoid committing any felonies. As adults, they’d have to join the military, go to college, or work here legally for three years. Plus there’s that English language requirement, criminal background check, and a required fee.
“What I describe would knock half my family out,” the South Carolina senator joked amid laughter. Speaking directly to the Dreamer kids, he passionately declared:
“I’m excited about giving you a chance to live the rest of your life in America. I’m excited about taking this burden off your back. I embrace you. I want you to succeed.”
Then the senator from the Palmetto State made a stirring plea to the better side Donald Trump does not have.
“So President Trump, you’re gonna have to make a decision. The campaign is over. To the Republican Party. Who are we? What do we believe? The moment of reckoning is coming. When they write the history of these times, I’m going to be with these kids.”
But why does Lindsey Graham even care about 800,000 Hispanic kids? Certainly not for the votes. Hispanics are only 5 percent of the population in his state. He explained he got involved because years ago Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked for his support. Now his closest friend in the Senate has brain cancer, immigration issues are even closer to his heart.
Struggling to move on, he urged his fellow Republicans to understand that immigration reform is not just a moral issue: it’s crucial to our economy and our national security. It also means getting tougher on employers as well as the workers. After all, we wouldn’t have 11 million people here illegally if we hadn’t looked the other way.
But the truly heart-wrenching moment came at the end as Lindsey Graham wound down his speech.
“President Trump,” he declared. “As you fix a broken immigration system, remember…” Overcome with surging tears, he bowed his head down and remained silent for several seconds. When the senator finally looked up, his eyes glistened with tears. He then asked Donald Trump to remember “that you have the power to fix lives as well.”
WATCH: Sen. Lindsey Graham urges Donald Trump and fellow Republicans support a path to citizenship for the Dreamers.
Lindsey Graham’s speech begins at the 2:40 mark. The 11:50 mark is where he gets choked up and nearly bursts into tears.
Featured image: Public Domain 2010 Dreamer Movement via Wikimedia Commons.