Graham: DREAM Act push damaged wider immigration reform effort

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday that the failed Democratic effort to pass the DREAM Act in the lame-duck session dealt a blow to future talks on a wider immigration bill.

“It was an exercise to try and taint Republicans with Hispanic voters, knowing that the DREAM Act under these circumstances could never pass,” Graham told reporters in the Capitol after the bill sputtered on the floor.

“What they have done on the DREAM Act is hurt overall comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.

The DREAM Act, which would give legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the country at a young age, have lived here for at least five years, earned a high school degree or its equivalent, and attended college or served in the military, fell five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a GOP-led filibuster — 55 to 41.

Graham has worked with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the past to try and seek a Capitol Hill compromise on a wider reform plan — one that would blend increased enforcement and border security with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, among other measures.

He said the DREAM Act effort will make it harder to bridge divides on immigration, noting the impassioned advocacy on both sides of the issue.

“Our base is all riled up that this is amnesty, so you have taken a debate on immigration, one part of it, you have gotten people emotional before you can sit down and reason your way through a comprehensive bill,” Graham said. “Doing this vote the way they did it has hurt the ability to do comprehensive reform next year to some extent.”