In the latest development on their bipartisan push for immigration reform, Senators Schumer (D-NY) and Graham (R-SC) appeared on Meet the Press yesterday to discuss immigration reform in a post-health care political environment. Amid criticism over his reaction to the passage of health care reform—the process of which he referred to as “sleazy,” Sen. Lindsey Graham called immigration reform a “heavy lift” and again threw down the gauntlet for more support on the issue from the President. Meanwhile, Schumer took a slightly more hopeful approach to the future of immigration reform—citing the wide range of support from key players, demonstrating the importance of fixing our broken system now and urging Sen. Graham to get this done.
Here’s what they had to say:
Sen. Graham: …I will keep workin’ with Chuck on immigration, but here’s the effect: immigration’s tough, you don’t have to ask anybody other than me to tell you that. It is a tough, heavy lift—the President promised to pass an immigration reform bill in his first year, they’ve done almost nothing in the White House on immigration, we’ve been absorbed by health care, people are risk averse. If a moderate Democrat got a phone call from the president—he wants you to come down to the White House and help him with immigration now—most of ‘em would jump out the window. That’s just the truth. I will continue to work with Chuck, but immigration is a heavy lift, we haven’t done the things necessary to bring the body together and 16 Democrats voted against immigration reform—this idea that I would be the 60th vote on immigration climate change could not be further from the truth. Tough sledding lies ahead because of the acrimony around health care…
David Gregory: Sen. Schumer, is immigration reform dead then?
Sen. Schumer: I don’t think so. First, let’s look at how desperately we need it: 15,000 people cross our border illegally every day, most of them take jobs from Americans. And yet, at the same time, there are certain people we need in this economy to help us grow and we can’t get ‘em: engineers, doctors, farm workers—so the system is broken. It lets the wrong people in, excludes the wrong people. And so we need to fix it. Now, Lindsay and I have worked for a year, we put out a framework that goes by what we think most Americans believe: most Americans are anti-illegal immigration and pro-legal immigration. And we’re real close, we’re real close. We do need a second Republican to come on the bill, and Lindsey’s—to his credit and he’s had a lot of courage to step forward here, I salute him—has always said we need that. But I would plead with him, if we can get that second Republican, we have business and labor ready to sign on, we have all the religious community—not just the liberals but the evangelicals—we even have Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly saying positive things about our proposal. I would urge that we try to get this done because it’s so important for America.
Sen. Graham: I urge the president to write a bill and see if he can get another Republican, see if he can convince the 16 Democrats who voted ‘no’ last time…
This interview is fresh on the heels of two major immigration developments: Sens. Graham and Schumer’s blueprint on immigration reform, which was published in the Washington Post and endorsed by the President two weeks ago, and last week’s “March for America” immigration reform rally attended by more than 200,000 from across the country.