04/07/2013 12:05 pm ET Updated Apr 08, 2013

Lindsey Graham: 'The Politics Of Self-Deportation Are Behind Us'

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday that the Republican Party as a whole has abandoned its opposition to allowing a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Graham, a member of the group of senators negotiating immigration reform, known as the "gang of eight," guessed there was a 70-30 chance legislation would be enacted.

"The politics of self-deportation are behind us," Graham said on NBC's "Meet The Press," referring to a proposal advanced by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign.

"Mitt Romney's a good man. He ran in many ways a good campaign," Graham said. "But it was an impractical solution. Quite frankly, it was offensive. Every corner of the Republican Party -- from libertarians to the RNC, House Republicans and the rank-and-file Republican Party member -- is now understanding there has to be an earned pathway to citizenship. That gives us leverage on immigration with our Democratic friends."

On CBS' "Face The Nation," two leading members of the "gang of eight," Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), also expressed optimism about a deal. Schumer said that legislative language is on track to be completed at the end of this week, and McCain said that the bill could go through committee and land on the Senate floor by May.

Graham, however, continued to press forward with a key issue of his, calling for a "merit-based" guest worker program. The proposal has been a stumbling block in negotiations, according to people involved, and the outlines of the deal currently tilt more toward family reunification as the central way of handling the future flow of immigrants.

Graham also said that the pathway to citizenship must be tied to certified border security. The nature of that certification could end up being central to the final agreement. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), also speaking on "Meet The Press," said that it was inhumane to tie a person's pathway to citizenship to uncertain and unrelated border security evaluations, but Graham insisted there would be "no deal" without a direct connection.


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