Graham, it should be noted, does not believe that the country should build a wall along the entire southern border, as Trump promised to do during the campaign — and again during his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.
But the senator doesn’t mind branding the border security component of a broader immigration bill as such, if it helps move things along.
“We can call it ‘the greatest wall in the history of walls.’ I don’t care,” Graham offered. “You know you’re not going to build a 2,200-mile wall. But having ‘the greatest wall in the history of the world’? … I don’t care how we do it; I just want to get there.”
Graham also floated the possibility of tapping the $10 billion to $20 billion in funds he estimates it would take to pay for enhanced border security as an emergency appropriation, removing the requirement that it be offset by new revenue or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
“You can make an argument border security is an emergency,” Graham said, likening it to defense spending — which he indicated he would vote for as an emergency appropriation.
Graham has excoriated parts of Trump’s recent budget outline proposal, calling his plans to pay for increases in defense spending with cuts to foreign aid a “disaster” for the State Department and “the end of soft power.”
But when it comes to immigration reform, Graham doesn’t want to waste a budding opportunity he sees with the president — if only he would send Congress a bill.
Graham, a frequent Trump critic, said he is “encouraged” by recent signals Trump has sent on immigration, including reports that the president is open to giving “Dreamers” — certain young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — a pathway to legal status.
“He’s shown some willingness to embrace a more practical immigration proposal. I want to give him credit for that,” Graham said of the president. “Anytime he moves into the land of practicality, I want to encourage him, because that’s what it’s going to take to get a bill passed.”
Graham is adamant that the model put forward by the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill — a measure that garnered 68 Senate votes in 2013 — cannot be deviated from too widely if a new immigration policy is to clear Congress.
But he stressed that while there is still a great deal of distance between Trump and that immigration bill, Trump himself may be the best hope for advocates of immigration reform.
“The president may actually be able to pull off immigration reform, because he has credibility with the hard right, who have called everything amnesty,” Graham said.