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Sen. Lindsey Graham Faces Harsh Criticism for Helping Broker Deal

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 22, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: The Senate puts off action on the immigration deal, but that doesn't mean the bickering over the controversial deal has stopped. And now the fighting is making its mark on the campaign trail — John McCain and Mitt Romney exchanging verbal jabs over the plan while out campaigning. The plan is drawing widespread criticism from all corners.

On Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the key brokers of the deal, found himself getting booed at the South Carolina GOP convention over his stance on immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: For two months, morning, noon, and night, I've been working on a new bill with Secretary Chertoff, Secretary Gutierrez, homeland security secretary, commerce secretary, Republicans, Democrats, including Ted Kennedy.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLMES: Joining us now is South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, standing up there taking those boos. Senator, welcome back to our show.

GRAHAM: Hey, Ted, how are you doing?

(LAUGHTER)

COLMES: You're getting a few brick bats here from your fellow Republicans, Senator, on this.

GRAHAM: Well, Ted Kennedy is a sure boo line, but I understand people's frustration. And Senator Kennedy is someone that I've been working with, along with the president. I hope we can get a good deal for the country, not a perfect deal. But, yes, I understand why people are frustrated with immigration. The whole country should be upset.

COLMES: Everybody says they want bipartisanship until they actually produce something that's bipartisan. Then everybody is bickering. Look, Newt Gingrich says, “You can't imagine how bad this bill is, how foolish its sponsors will look.” He went after you, suspects there are a lot of people in South Carolina not happy with you. How do you respond to Newt Gingrich when he comes after you like that?

GRAHAM: Well, to be honest with you, I want to be a senator that solves problems for my country and my state. After 9/11, this is no joking matter. This is bigger than Lindsey Graham. After 9/11, it's a national security issue. The Fort Dix six, three came across the border as children illegally. Three overstayed their visa. They're not here to work, they're here to kill us. So I'm going to do everything I can, as long as I'm the senator from South Carolina, to deal with hard problems.

COLMES: But the Fort Dix six, three of them were here illegally, came here when they were 1, one was 6 years old. It wasn't like they came here to commit jihad. They came here as children with their parents. Come on.

GRAHAM: The point is, they came here illegally. They've been here for years, and no one has done anything about it. To Newt and anyone else, let's do something about it. I'm trying to find a solution to a problem that's a national security nightmare for this country. That means we're going to have to secure our borders, but it doesn't stop there. That means we deal with the 12 million. We've got to find who's here in our country and what they're up to.

The worst thing I could do, in my opinion, as a senator in these times, is to be worried more about me than solving this problem. I'm going to work with the president, and we're going to get a bill that secures our borders and brings order out of chaos.

COLMES: One of the criticisms is the guest-worker program, where hundreds of thousands of people have no protection, in terms of workers' rights, and wages come down. Then they get to stay in the country and themselves become illegal immigrants.

GRAHAM: That's a bunch of bull. People are talking about this bill and have no idea what they're saying. The temporary worker program allows people to get jobs only after they're advertised and no American will do the job at a competitive wage, so we don't drive down wages. And once you get the job, employers have to treat you fairly. If we don't have a temporary worker program, we're going to have 12 million more.

The reason people come here is to work. We need to bring them here legally, and everybody working in this country doesn't have to be a citizen. We can make it a win-win.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Senator?

GRAHAM: Hey, aloha.

HANNITY: Senator, aloha, my friend. I was recently with you in South Carolina, Senator. You are loved there, and it's not often you get booed. Similarly, Saxby Chambliss had the same thing happen to him.

The polls show, Senator — and the Washington Times had a great piece on this today — the overwhelming majority wants security and security only. And when it comes to the issue, for example, of a guest-worker program or a path to citizenship, Rasmussen shows that the majority do not want that as part of this bill, Senator.

GRAHAM: I can show you four polls where 75 percent of the people want more than just border security. But to answer your question, in this bill, no one gets a permanent legal status until the borders are secure and employer verification has been accomplished. But let me just say this about polls.

HANNITY: But wait, but they'll have legal status.

GRAHAM: Just follow me here. The 12 million need to be dealt with now. We need to deal with the 12 million now, because there are a bunch of people in the 12 million that need to be punished for breaking our laws when it comes to coming into the country illegally. And they can be made right with the law. They can pay fines. They'll have to go back to their home country before they can become citizens. They'll have to learn English. But some of the 12 million are here to hurt us. And they need to be dealt with by getting them out of this country or put in jail.

I'm tired of putting problems off. I want to secure the border. I want to verify who is here through tamper-proof I.D., and I want to deal with the 12 million now. And people tell me in polling I need to be out of Iraq by next year. I'm not going to follow polling.

HANNITY: Senator, and I admire you for not following polling. I really do. That's leadership. That's the definition of it. But I'm telling you, listening to conservatives — and I don't want to get into a semantical argument — people that didn't respect our laws or sovereignty, they come into this country illegally, if they get a path to citizenship, which is what these polls are telling me, that is where conservatives are saying, "We are rewarding law breaking." That it's the people that followed our laws that ought to be rewarded with citizenship or a path to citizenship.

GRAHAM: Let me tell you how this bill is different than last year. The people who have come here illegally will be given a probationary sentence. Part of their probation will be, you have to get fingerprinted. You go through a criminal background check. You have to pay a $5,000 fine. And if you ever want to be a citizen under this new bill, you have to leave the country before you can get a green card.

There is no automatic path to citizenship. There is a probationary sentence. And you can't cut in line. You've got to wait until everybody in front of you goes through, which is at a minimum of eight years.

HANNITY: Let me ask you one last question. What Newt Gingrich's quote was on this very program, Senator, and these are strong words from Newt Gingrich, and he's a friend of yours and a supporter of yours.

GRAHAM: Yes, he is. He's a good guy.

HANNITY: He said it was a sell-out of conservative principles, a sell-out on national security. And the Heritage Foundation came out with an estimate, Robert Rector, that it would be $2.5 trillion over the next couple of decades in terms of the cost to Social Security, Medicare, the infrastructure of this country. We don't even have a full cost analysis here. Why don't we put that off, secure the borders first, and deal with these issues secondarily?

GRAHAM: Because there are people within the 12 million that mean us harm. And if we don't do it comprehensively, we're going to have the old system. Amnesty is the current system. I understand how people feel about securing the border. That's part of the deal, but there's more to do than just that if you want to be safe.

COLMES: Senator, we thank you very much for being with us tonight. Good to see you back on our show. Thank you very much.

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