POLITICS
03/13/2013 01:26 pm ET Updated Jun 10, 2013

Lindsey Graham Defended By Conservative Pro-Immigration Reform Groups

WASHINGTON -- Two conservative pro-immigration reform groups are stepping in to support Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the members of the Senate "gang of eight," as he comes under fire in his state from an organization that seeks to reduce immigration.

Republicans for Immigration Reform, a super PAC, announced a $60,000 ad buy on Wednesday to tout Graham's efforts on the issue, the same day the Evangelical Immigration Table said it will also air spots in South Carolina. Graham is up for reelection in 2014 and may face a primary. But both groups argue that his support for immigration reform is a good thing for the state.

"Today's immigration laws are not written for today's South Carolina businesses," Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce President Bryan Derreberry says in the ad from Republicans for Immigration Reform. "South Carolina businesses will not be able to continue to grow without real immigration solutions. Senator Graham is right on target in fighting for immigration reform today."

The 30-second spot will air statewide from March 13 to March 19.

The Evangelical Immigration Table ad will run on 15 Christian radio stations across the state and specifically mentions the need for a pathway to citizenship.

"Christians should be known by our love," says Reverend Jim Goodroe of Spartanburg County Baptist Network. "Many of our neighbors came here seeking opportunity, but our dysfunctional immigration system breaks up families across the U.S."

There are other efforts to bolster Graham's push. Partnership for a New American Economy, a non-partisan group led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is working to bring out business leaders in South Carolina who support Graham. Jeremy Robbins, director of the group, said they will do the same in other states where voting in support of immigration reform could be politically risky. He said the Republicans for Immigration Reform ad in support of Graham aligns with his group's message.

"This ad, and certainly a lot of our efforts are about trying to get away from the extremes of people trying to throw things at Lindsey Graham and get some of the leaders who are creating jobs in South Carolina out to make a case that, 'Look, this is going to help the economy,'" Robbins said.

Both ads stand in contrast to a recent ad buy from anti-"amnesty" group NumbersUSA. Its ad accuses Graham of going against the wishes of his constituents by supporting a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to eventually become citizens. He was the first member of the "gang of eight" to be targeted in spots from NumbersUSA, although likely not the last.

"Who elected Graham to demand amnesty and welfare for millions of illegal aliens?" a voiceover says in the ad.

"Amnesty?" an unnamed man replies. "Not me."

The "gang of eight" framework released in late January would require increased border security and an arduous, lengthy process before undocumented immigrants could become citizens. Graham argued last week that the plan does not amount to amnesty because of those restrictions, and would be a better solution than allowing people to become legal residents without the possibility of citizenship.

"This idea of just permanent residency -- that will be amnesty as much as a pathway to citizenship for a segment of the party, and I think it's just as much of an inducement to say if you come here you can spend the rest of your life, that's not a deterrent for people to continue to come in the future," he said in response to a book co-written by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R). "What I want to do is make sure that we don't have a third wave. Long story short: Politically and substantively, I don't think it's a very good idea."

Even if Graham does face a primary, he might be hard to beat. He has a 71.6 percent approval rating among South Carolina Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, according to polling released in February from Winthrop University.

Watch the Republicans for Immigration Reform ad:

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