It may seem surprising to some in the Republican Party, but South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is a top advocate for immigration reform.

Graham is part of the so-called Gang of Eight senators that released a bipartisan overhaul plan Jan. 28 calling for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Politico reported Monday that some Republicans have a hard time understanding why a GOP senator who hails from a conservative state and could face a tea party challenger in 2014 would risk his re-election chances on an issue as controversial as immigration.

But Graham’s immigration stance isn’t so hard to figure out, given his own political strengths across his state and that many Republican leaders in Congress have changed their views on the issues since receiving a thumping from Hispanic voters in the November elections.

The election results played a large role in Graham’s activities. Not long after it was clear why the Republican had lost the election, Graham called Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York to let him know he was interested in forging a bipartisan solution. That effort also has the support of two other influential Republicans, conservative Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Arizona Sen. John McCain.

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