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Moving from a courageous champion of bipartisan immigration reform to a willing acolyte of the most xenophobic, blatantly racist and anti-immigrant president in modern American history, it’s been quite a journey for Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will mark-up Senator Graham’s bill — fully backed by the White House and Stephen Miller — to gut the U.S. asylum system and rewrite the rules for jailing immigrant children. This bill would punish and detain those seeking refuge in this country. It would remove basic protections for families and children in U.S. immigration custody, allowing the government to hold children beyond the court-mandated minimum period of 20 days. It would allow for detention of children without required basic humane standards and conditions. This continues the unbroken Republican streak of taking a difficult border and regional crisis and turning it into a human rights catastrophe.
Senator Graham and the Senate GOP’s bill is in stark contrast to the direction taken by House Democrats who recently passed the Humane Standards Act, H.R. 3239, to raise the basic standards of care for children, families and individuals in federal custody. Two horrible cases out of Texas — the detention of Texas teen and U.S. citizen Francisco Erwin Galicia and the autopsy of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vazquez a teenager from Guatemala — show why these competing legislative visions matter so much. Nearly every House Republican made the unconscionable choice to oppose basic protections like soap and decent food, while Senator Graham and his Senate GOP colleagues are poised to vote to weaken protections for children, families and individuals seeking safety through our asylum system.
But the legislative markup also reflects the broader decline of Senator Graham and the larger GOP on immigration. The Senate bill markup will be the first time the Senate Judiciary Committee will have marked up an immigration bill since the 2013 immigration reform debate — back when Lindsey Graham was a profile in courage and not a profile in sycophancy.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Lindsey Graham used to courageously stand shoulder to shoulder with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to fight for good policy and bipartisan breakthroughs, even if it meant taking on nativists in his own party. But those days of courage and conviction are distant memories. Now, Graham’s bill can be summed up as ‘go back where you came from.’ It’s a sad story that reflects the moral collapse of the GOP under Trump. As Senator Graham performs today for an audience of one, those of us who knew him when mourn the loss of a leader who once fought bravely for great causes and now fights cravenly for a cruel man.