COLUMBIA, S.C. – Home state Republicans are giving South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham his due recognition for his support for a comprehensive immigration bill that has failed twice in the last two years: a censure vote.
The Greenville County Republican Party voted Monday to censure Graham because of his support of the bill, and now the freshman senator is spending time trying to shore up his support among conservative voters ahead of his 2008 re-election bid, reports The State newspaper, based in Columbia, S.C., reported Wednesday.
“I can’t please everybody, but I can try,” Graham told reporters after appearing with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the University of South Carolina.
Graham was meeting with Chertoff to promote use of the Employment Eligibility Verification program, which is aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining jobs with false documents.
“The biggest problem was the American people didn’t trust that (the Senate legislation) would work — that it would solve the problem,” Graham said.
Since the bill's latest defeat, Graham has been trying to support other immigration reforms that are more favorable to conservative voters, a group of constituents who largely felt alienated by the comprehensive bill backed by Graham, President Bush and a majority of Democrats.
One of the most controversial provisions would have allowed millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they paid fines, passed background checks and met other requirements. Supporters said it didn't guarantee citizenship, but conservatives blasted it as amnesty for immigrants who entered the country illegally.
Graham is fighting another tough political battle as one of the heaviest supporters of Bush's troop surge plan in Iraq, but his position plays better with conservatives than the support for a guest worker program.