This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 6, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
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TONY SNOW, GUEST HOST: Our top story tonight is an important one. A last-minute compromise on Capitol Hill over illegal immigration reform. Senate Republicans and Democrats are closing in on opening the way to legal status and eventually citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million illegals living here, but not everybody is pleased.
Take a look at the results of this new FOX News poll, which asks if it's fair to give illegals rights while thousands wait to come here legally? Eighty-one percent say it's unfair. Just 12 percent think that it's fair.
Joining us now from Washington, two Republican senators who disagree on the terms of the deal. From South Carolina, Lindsey Graham. And from Arizona, Jon Kyl.
Senator Kyl, first your reservations?
SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: Well, I've always had reservations about making illegal immigrants citizens. It's not necessary, though I would not preclude them from applying to become citizens just like anyone else does in their own country.
And unfortunately, the compromise to which you referred is very little different. It simply has one group of people wait a little bit longer before they can automatically get on this path to citizenship.
So from my perspective, it doesn't improve anything. And Tony, I've had hundreds and hundreds of people calling my offices today. And I just want to assure them, because a lot of them watch this program, that, no, I am not part of that compromise deal. I oppose it, not withstanding the fact that my good friend Lindsey Graham is for it.
SNOW: Well, we're going to bring your good friend Senator Graham in. Senator Graham, I know part of your response is, wait a minute, we're going to make people wait between 11 and 16 years. Is that longer than they would have to wait if they went back home and started all over?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, number one, Tony, people are not going to come out of the shadows if it's going to result in their family being broken up and sent back to Central America or Mexico.
We've got 11 million people here. We're not going to put them all in jail. We're not going to make them felons. And we're not going to be able to deport them, but we can have reasonable punishment. And we need to know who the heck they are.
So this compromise gives people an incentive to come out of the shadow, raise their hands, get registered. They have to pay a fine. They have to learn English. They always have to have a job. They have to do these things for 11 to 16 years.
And if they accomplish the probationary sentence we're going to impose upon them, I think they've paid their debt to society and they've proven to us they can be members of the American family.
But my good friend, Jon Kyl has a reasonable position. And one thing we're going to agree on if nothing else on this program, if he'll have me, I'm coming to Arizona to campaign for him this fall.
SNOW: OK, well, I'll let you two deal — kiss up later.
SNOW: I want to go ahead and try to figure out what's going on.
Senator Graham, first, give me the political outlook on this. You've got Democrats and Republicans. Do you have the votes to pass it in the U.S. Senate?
GRAHAM: I think we'll have the votes. I'll just go first. I think we'll have the votes for closure on the compromise. Senator Frist is now on the compromise. I believe the president will support the compromise.
It is a way to get people out of is the shadows. They'll get a probationary sentence. They're not automatically-sentenced citizens, but they'll have hope.
I think we can get a bipartisan compromise through the Senate. And we'll have the votes at the end of the day, but Jon Kyl deserves a vote on his amendment. And we're not going to get there unless John Kyl gets a vote.
SNOW: And I want to talk about Jon Kyl's amendment because it's an important one.
GRAHAM: It is.
SNOW: Senator Kyl, you want to make sure people that who have broken the law don't get in the citizenship line and get sent back. Correct?
KYL: That's right, although we're not talking about immigration laws. For the most part, we're talking about being regular criminals. Although let me just note that there are probably about 19 amendments that we could have disposed of this week. They're not all mine. I only have four or five.
But we need a chance to vote for those amendments. And I appreciate the support of our leadership, Senator Graham, Senator McCain and others, who notwithstanding the fact that they would like to get to a vote on their bill, are willing to allow us to offer amendments and have votes on those amendments.
But the problem is the Democratic leader has not allowed those votes. And so we're stuck. And until we can get votes on those amendments, we can't proceed to the final vote on the bill that Senator Graham would like to see passed.
SNOW: Just to make it clear, then, Senate Democrats will not permit a vote on a measure that would say if you're guilty of breaking and entering, or rape, or murder, whatever, you know, I'm exaggerating maybe a little, but not a lot. They're preventing a vote on saying the people who have committed those kinds of crimes cannot become citizens. They don't want to vote on that?
GRAHAM: The answer is they're not letting us vote on anything. I agree with Jon Kyl. The bill should be written that if you committed a violent crime, you're not eligible for this program.
We'll all get there, but Jon Kyl is right. Our Democratic friends right now want to shut down debate. They've offered three amendments on one of the biggest bills facing America. We had many votes on judiciary.
While I may vote differently than Jon Kyl, we do agree on criminality being a disqualifier.
SNOW: Well, but.
GRAHAM: He deserves a chance to vote.
SNOW: OK. You say he deserves a chance to vote, but you're willing to proceed if he doesn't get a chance.
GRAHAM: No, I am not.
SNOW: Is that correct? OK.
GRAHAM: And that's — I'm making some moves here. I will not proceed until Jon Kyl and others have a fair chance to express their differences. And some of the things they'll put on the table I'll agree with.
We need to get this problem solved. The border is broken. The border will be fixed under this bill. And 11 million people are not going to go away by just talking about it. So I'm asking my Democratic colleagues to meet us halfway and give us a decent chance to get this thing done.
SNOW: Let me complete the piece of news you're making. Do you have enough Republicans to go along with you, that everything gets bottled up until there's a vote on the amendments?
GRAHAM: I don't believe any Republican, including John McCain, is going to throw Jon Kyl over and not give him a chance to have a fair statement.
SNOW: OK. Now let me turn to Senator Kyl, or Jon Kyl, as you like to call him.
Senator Kyl, this bill to a lot of people is awfully convoluted. It says if you've been here five years or more, you can sort of get in line. You don't have to go back to a point of origin or back to your home nation and reapply.
If you're here for two to five years, you got to go to an airport or port of entry, or your home country, fill out some paperwork. Then you can come back. If you've been here less than two years, you just got to go home. Do you consider.
KYL: Although you can apply to come back.
SNOW: Well, you can apply to come back.
SNOW: But you go home. My question is, do you think that kind of a law is enforceable?
KYL: Well, you know, that depends really on — and that is the fundamental question about this entire bill. And something else that I know, you see a lot of agreement between us on this. We disagree about some key things. But we agree that it's not worth the exercise if we're not committed to enforcing the law.
And what our constituents are saying to us, why should we believe that you guys are going to be committed to enforcing the law in the future when you haven't enforced it in the past? And they turn to that 1986 amnesty law, for example.
We have got to be crystal clear that not only is the authorization for more border patrol, more detention spaces, more fencing, more UAV's, the ability to check employees, verify that they are eligible to be hired, and all of these other things, that our authorization to do that is backed up by appropriations, the dollars, and the commitment to enforce the law once we've passed it.
SNOW: All right.
KYL: If we're not committed to that, then none of this matters.
SNOW: All right, Senator Kyl, you have the last word. Senator Graham, thank you as well.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Tony.
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