Sen. Graham: Secure the Border First, Then ‘I’m More Than Willing To Give A Legal Status’ to Illegal Aliens

By Edwin Mora | March 30, 2011 | 4:45 AM EDT

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Washington ( -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), after speaking to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, told reporters that the way to fix the illegal immigration problem in the United States is to secure the border first.

Graham also repeated his contention that birthright citizenship should be denied to children of illegal aliens.

He said illegal aliens already in the United States should get a pathway to citizenship after learning English, assimilating into the American culture, paying fines, and getting in line behind those who came into the country legally.

“If you secure your border, control who gets a job in America, I’m more than willing to give a legal status to the 10 or 12 million so they don’t have to live in fear,” said Graham, speaking at a Washington, D.C., hotel. “But they come out of the shadows, they identify themselves, they pay a fine, they work, pay taxes, they learn our language, and if they want to be a citizen, they get in the back of the line.”

“I have to convince people we are not going to have 10 million [illegal immigrants] 20 years from now and our policy on citizenship makes no sense to me at all,” he said. “Once you clean this mess up -- and I’m not talking about stripping anybody’s citizenship -- but in the future prospectively we need to stop the practice of allowing tourists to come here and have here, and have a child from Mid-Eastern China and give citizenship based on birth. You should not do that.”

The senator also said that if Republicans press border security as the sole solution to fixing the immigration system in America, it is “wayward thinking.”

“It is difficult to engage in this [immigration reform] debate until you first secure your border -- and let me tell you about the Republican Party,” he said, “if we push border security and it becomes a reality and we do nothing else, the burden falls on us because then it will be as if we just wanted one thing and not the other. I want to fix it completely.”

“So to those Republicans who think you can fix the border and never address these other issues, that to me is wayward thinking,” he said.

Graham’s comments were in response to a Spanish media reporter who told the senator, “You said that you don’t have an immigration view based on trying to appeal to the Hispanic vote. However, the latest Census figures point out that obviously the greatest growth in voters will be from the Hispanic side.”

The reporter was referring to comments that Sen. Graham made during his keynote address at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 Legislative Summit on Tuesday.

Graham also addressed birthright citizenship of children born to illegal aliens when talking to reporters.

Maria Gianni, an illegal immigrant, volunteers at a phone bank in Seattle on Oct. 16, 2010. The phone bank is run by the pro-Democrat OneAmerica Votes, an organization that has launched a voter registration drive targeting naturalized citizens. (AP Photo/Manuel aldes)

“In the future, if you don’t deal with the incentive to come here illegally and have a child, you’re going to have the third wave [of illegal immigration],” he said. “So, once you clean this [immigration system] mess up, create laws in the future about citizenship that are rational, that if you’re here as a worker and you’re child is born, it will be a citizen. If you have a green card and a child is born, it will be a citizen. If you’re a student and a child is born, it will be a citizen.”

“But in the future, we’re not going to allow people to break our laws, come here illegally to have a child to automatically give away citizenship,” he said.

The senator, in responding to the reporter’s comments, maintained that America’s borders have to be secured first before the immigration problem is solved.

“Secure that border first, deal with your visas, control who gets a job in America, and give the 10 or 12 million a second chance,” he said.

The senator has supported legislation in the past that provides a pathway to citizenship for the illegal aliens already in the country. He has also called on denying birthright citizenship to children born to illegal aliens.

Children of illegal aliens are referred to as “anchor babies” by those who say that the 14th amendment does not apply to them.

The 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Sen. Graham serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration and naturalization issues, among other topics.