Earlier this week, Lindsey Graham became the ninth candidate to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Attempting to distinguish himself from the other candidates, Graham is highlighting his foreign policy and national security experience. Yet, the area where he undoubtedly leads the pack is his leadership on immigration reform.

With longtime ally Senator John McCain usually at his side, Graham has been involved in more than one effort to pass an immigration bill through the Senate. NBC News reports:

“…he has been a consistent GOP vote for immigration reform legislation. His history of work on immigration bills included collaboration with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, costing him conservative support in his 2008 primary. Despite that, he easily won re-election…Graham also was one of the negotiators on the 2013 “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. “

Moreover, Graham has continued to proselytize the need for immigration reform and has warned his party that they ignore the immigration issue at their own peril. He said in 2014:

“If we become the party of self deportation, if that again is our position in 2016, we’re going to drive a deep wedge between us and Hispanics.” And “If you solve the immigration problem in a good, American, responsible way, our party’s back in the game and we can dominate the 21st century.”

He’s also using his experience working on immigration as a selling point for his presidential nomination. Bloomberg News reports:

“Graham argued that he would have the most credibility of any presidential candidate to push through a permanent legislative solution on immigration. ‘I think I could sit down with Democrats, who’ve known I’ve taken a beating to try to get a fair compromise,’ he said, referring to his co-authorship of a sweeping immigration reform bill that passed the Senate with bipartisan support in 2013 and died in the House. ‘And I think I could convince my party that now’s the time to get this behind us.’”

Senator Graham’s entry into the 2016 GOP presidential mix will hopefully provoke a conversation on immigration policy. Where do the candidates in his party stand on immigration reform? Will they bring solutions to the issue or politicize it as in primaries past? Graham has the opportunity to challenge some of those who refuse to tackle the issue pragmatically and fairly. Let’s hope he continues to champion the issue for both the sake of his party and the country.

Photo Courtesy of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.