The Washington Times - May 9, 2013, 11:57AM

Sen. Lindsey Graham sparked gasps at Thursday’s immigration hearing when he said the problem with the country’s southern border is that people are trying to illegally immigrate from Latin America because they live in “hellholes.”

“The people coming across the southern border live in hellholes,” the South Carolina Republican said, venturing into one of the thorniest areas of the immigration debate.

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Mr. Graham was trying to explain why the U.S.-Mexican border needs more security than the northern border, where he said Canadians have good lives and are not rushing to cross into the U.S. to stay here.

A key driver of illegal immigration across the border is slumping economies in Latin America. Indeed, as Mexico’s economy has improved, illegal immigration from that country appears to have slackened.

Mr. Graham later clarified: “I wasn’t slandering Mexico, I was just talking about all the places people want to leave.”