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Graham gets Trump official to confirm 2013 bill would have made border 'more secure'

Emma Dumain, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham put his reelection at stake in 2014 for helping champion a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill the year before.

On Tuesday, at a closely watched congressional hearing, the South Carolina Republican reminded everyone of that fact -- and got a Trump administration official to confirm under oath that, had that bill been signed into law, many of today's border security hurdles would be moot.

"If we'd passed th(is) ... bill, do you agree that most of the problems we're dealing with, if not all, would not exist?" Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

"We'd have 20,000 additional border security agents," replied McAleenan, testifying before the committee Tuesday on the overwhelming numbers of migrants from Central America trying to enter the United States. "We'd be a lot more secure on the border."

Later, Graham asked McAleenan, "isn't there generally a trade-off in a deal, where one side gets something and the other side gets something? Hasn't the old trade-off been, we'll give a pathway to citizenship for non-felons in return for better border security?"

"That was where you had 68 votes," McAleenan conceded, referencing the compromise immigration bill from 2013.

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After the hearing, Graham told McClatchy his reason for bringing up the 2013 immigration measure -- which passed the U.S. Senate 68-32 but was never taken up in the U.S. House -- was "just to let people know that there were solutions out there that would work. It's my way of saying, 'According to the experts, the (2013) bill would work.'"

Graham also was trying to extoll the virtues of compromise in crafting any kind of immigration bill.

But reminding the public about these efforts could be a risky political strategy.

Graham is currently touting a bill aimed at stopping the flood of migrants seeking entry into the United States through the southern border. As currently written, the bill would force migrants to make asylum claims in their home countries prior to arriving at the border. It also would allow minors to be held in detention with their families for 100 days, up from the current 20-day maximum window.


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