Presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham wants to expand the number of legal immigrants coming to the country.
“To those who want to limit legal immigration, I don’t know where they’re coming from. We’re having a declining population,” he said after speaking to members of the Upstate Chamber Coalition at a luncheon Monday.
His plan would create a program for people to enter the country for six to nine months to work in industries struggling to find workers. The work permits would be provided only to companies that first sought to fill open jobs with American citizens.
The nation is facing a shortage of workers in the future, Graham said. “So when you advertise for an American worker and you can’t find one … you can bring in temporary workers. That’s a win-win for us all,” he said.
“What hurts the American worker is when you pay an illegal immigrant under the table in cash,” he said, “so you want to stop illegal immigration. And for businesses to grow in this country, down the road, they’re going to have to have access to labor.”
Certain industries have a hard time finding labor, he said. “Meatpacking, agriculture – it’s just hard to find native-born work.”
Much of Graham’s speech to the chamber focused on the economy. “Bipartisanship has got us in $18 trillion in debt, and it’s going to take bipartisanship to get us out,” he said. He proposes flattening the income tax, eliminating many deductions, raising the retirement age by one to two years and means testing benefits.
As the three-term senator seeks the presidency, he faces competition from a crowded field of other Republican challengers. “My biggest obstacle is getting better known. It’s not my ideas,” he said. Graham has traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire to boost his image in the two early voting states.
Political experts say Graham’s chances for making a strong run for the presidency depend on performing well in those two states. If he succeeds in Iowa and New Hampshire, they say, he has a good opportunity to win the primary in South Carolina, a historically important state in winning the Republican nomination.