Sen. Lindsey Graham and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano clashed Tuesday over whether the Senate should move forward immediately on immigration reform, with Graham betting "everything I own" that a comprehensive bill will not pass this year unless the nation first secures its border with Mexico.
An angry Graham (R-S.C.) earlier backed away from his support for a climate change bill after learning the Obama adminstration wants to begin a new push for immigration reform, with legislation likely to grant legal status to undocumented workers -- if certain conditions are met. The hubbub started after Arizona enacted a state law last week giving police the authority stop, question and detain suspects when authorities have a reasonable suspicion they may be in the country illegally.
A renewed effort to pass immigration reform "will be absolutely devastating to this issue," Graham told Napolitano at a Judiciary Committee hearing, The Hill Newspaper
reported. Before moving on a new federal law, he said the government should deal with "the big elephant in the room -- the borders are not secure and there's a [drug] war going on."
But Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, held her ground at the hearing. "I would bet you everything I own that Congress needs to take up comprehensive immigration reform," she said, answering Graham's wager. "I say this again, as someone who has walked that border, ridden it, flown it, and driven it: I believe it is as secure as it ever has been."
Republicans argue that Democrats want to revive the immigration issue on Capitol Hill as a play for Latino votes in the November elections. The Arizona law, which has provoked a national debate on immigration, will take effect after three months if it survives possible legal challenges.
At the Justice Department Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Arizona law is already under review and may be challenged in federal court, according to the AP
, Eric Holder
, Homeland Security Department
, Immigration Reform
, Janet Napolitano
, Sen. Lindsey Graham
, U.S.-Mexican border