Republican Senate Candidates Opposing Illegal Immigration—But How Will They Govern?
perennial bills to end birthright citizenship often
attracted over 100 co-sponsors or 22% of the
House—yet the issue barely registered in the national
consciousness. But when Lindsey Graham and five other
Republican Senators—representing 6% of the
Senate—discussed interest in
birthright citizenship, it became headline news for
weeks. (To be fair, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) had
earlier introduced a
resolution to end birthright citizenship with very
little fanfare and no co-sponsors and it too managed to
Generally, however, Senators are
simply taken much more seriously than congressmen. Just
a few of them willing to make a stink can completely
shift public debate.
Unfortunately, there are very few
Senators willing to make a stink. Other than Vitter, and
the empty rhetoric from Graham and Co., Republican
Senators are still refusing to
get serious about birthright citizenship. None are
asylum fraud or chain migration either.
Republican Senators do a fairly
good job of stopping bad ideas from the Democrats. But
they are not proactive. Numbers USA recently added a
status quo" grade that gives low marks to
politicians who do nothing about immigration.
Vitter`s C grade is the highest in the Senate in
However, the influx of
Tea Party candidates in the Senate races gives
hope that this may change. So it`s worth taking a close
look at a few of these races.
Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) vs. Incumbent Harry Reid
Without a doubt, the Nevada race is
the most significant. As Senate Majority Leader, Reid
used his power to try to
block even the most mild security measures such as
reauthorizing E-Verify, while trying to force the
DREAM Act amnesty to a vote, knowing his own party
does not want it.
He`s made wonderful statements,
like saying that Republicans have
"either taken leave of their senses or their principles"
for taking up
birthright citizenship; and telling a group of
Latinos that he didn`t
"know how anyone
of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican." [1993
flip-flop: Sen. Reid introduced bill `clarifying`
birthright citizenship, by Kelly Picket,
August 13, 2010]
Nevada`s electorate is Hispanic and Reid has made it
clear that his strategy is to turn out the Hispanic
released two hard-hitting ads attacking Reid`s record.
One ad aired after Reid tried to force a vote on the
Harry Reid votes to give special tax breaks and social
Reid cheers as the President of Mexico slams
Arizona`s tough illegal immigration law. Now Reid has
introduced a plan that gives illegal a pathway to
amnesty and even special tuition rates with money coming
at your expense.
“Harry Reid: the
Best Friend Illegals Have Ever Had."
Angle TV Ad: "At
Your Expense", YouTube, September 23, 2010]
Unfortunately, Angle has done a
little bit of
pandering herself, by releasing Spanish language
ads. Her "At Your
Expense" TV spot featured images of people crossing
but when asked if they were Hispanic, she tried to claim
that she was so-colorblind
that she couldn`t identify races, telling an
audience of Hispanic students
"Some of you look
a little more
Asian to me."
This has led to a flurry of attacks
from Reid, the DNC, and Hispanic groups calling her
insensitive or worse. [Harry
Reid blasts Sharron Angle on `Asian` comment, by
Molly Ball, Politico, October 19, 2010]
episode is a lesson to pandering Republicans everywhere.
Angle should have said:
"Virtually everyone who
crosses the border illegally is Hispanic. The ad
simply reflected that reality. If Hispanics who are here
legally or are US Citizens feel stigmatized by the ad,
they should blame the
Hispanic illegal aliens who give them a bad name".
would have been unimpeachably true and she would not be
subject to ridicule.
immigration, Angle filled out all of NumbersUSA`s
questions about reducing overall numbers and ending
chain migration perfectly. Yet she`s been silent on it
in the campaign.
Despite these setbacks, if a
virtual political novice can take down the
Senate Majority Leader by attacking him on illegal
immigration, it will send a huge message.
Political Novice Rand Paul (R) vs. State Attorney
General Jack Conway (D)
Rand Paul shocked the GOP Establishment and gave the
Tea Party its first major victory when he beat
Mitch McConnell-backed Trey Grayson in the
Republican primary. While he is certainly much more
willing to compromise than his father, Rand Paul still
seems to echo
his father on immigration. Paul deserves great
credit for vocally opposing birthright citizenship.
Prior to Graham`s aforementioned semi-support for ending
birthright citizenship, the fact that a Senate candidate
championed the cause created a media firestorm and
helped bring the issue to the forefront of the
immigration debate, quite possibly forcing the
establishment GOP to address it.
As a relative foreign policy
non-interventionist still trying to appeal to
puts border security and immigration restriction at the
center of his National Defense platform.
"I believe our greatest national security threat is our lack of security
at the border. On 9/11, 16 of 19 hijackers were here on
`legal` student Visas but were not in school or in the
states they were supposed to be in … I propose a
moratorium on Visas from about ten rogue nations or
anybody that has traveled to those nations. I would keep
this in place until our government proves they can
manage intelligently our Visa process." [National
Defense, Rand Paul for US Senate]
So where is Paul on a moratorium on
legal immigration? He utters the usual platitude ("I
legal immigration and recognize that the country has
been enriched by those who
the freedom to make a life for themselves") and
the usual naïve libertarian cliché ("Once
illegal immigration are removed, the problem will likely
become far less common") [Illegal
Immigration, Rand Paul for US Senate]. So it`s
harder to tell.
My biggest concern with Paul: would
E-Verify? His father is one of a handful of
oppose reauthorizing the program on libertarian
grounds, much less mandating it. In the Senate,
Republicans have admirably been unanimous in their
reauthorizing E-Verify and requiring it for
government contractors, so this might be the one
issue where positive legislation might pass. But one
dissenting Republican vote could give cover for moderate
Democrats to peel away.
Democrat Jack Conway tries to stay
as silent as possible on immigration. His website does
not contain a peep about the issue. When pressed, he
said he had "real
concerns" over SB 1070 and
"We have 12
million illegal immigrants in this country right now…The
problem is we`re not going to be able to round them all
up and ship them away." [Democratic
Senate hopefuls debate, Associated Press, May 7,
To his credit, Paul is attacking
DREAM Act came up, Paul made his opposition clear and
then sent out a
press release attacking Conway for his silence.
An October 19
Rasmussen Poll found Rand Paul five points ahead of
issues like birthright citizenship to the forefront. But
his silence on E-Verify is very worrying.
Boozman (R) vs. Incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln (D)
Blanche Lincoln has about the worst
record on immigration among Democrats in relatively
conservative states, with a D grade from Numbers USA
with an F- for increasing legal immigration and amnesty.
Lincoln co-sponsored the DREAM Act, and voted for the
2006 and 2007 amnesty.
Lincoln does not have an
immigration platform, but her
Amigos for Blanche" website states
continues her support of Comprehensive Immigration
Reform and the DREAM Act". She touts her A+ rating
from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and her
from the National Council of La Raza." [Latinos
& Amigos for Blanche, Blanche Lincoln for US
Lincoln is in big trouble, and in
the last few months she has done a complete 180. She was
one of only two Democrats to
vote against cloture for the DREAM Act—which she
co-sponsored—claiming to have procedural scruples. She
was one of five Democrats to
vote for Jim DeMint`s motion to block Obama`s
In contrast, Numbers USA shows John
Boozman tied for second place for the best immigration
voting record, with 97% rating. He`s co-sponsored bills
chain migration, birthright citizenship, and the
diversity lottery. In his ten years in office, his
only bad votes were for
Free Trade agreements with Singapore and Chile that
included some guest workers.
In this election, Boozman`s actual
platform is disappointing. Despite his strong record on
reducing legal immigration and birthright citizenship,
it does not mention either issue.
Instead, it proclaims:
"We are a nation of immigrants and must remain welcoming to those who
come to achieve the American Dream." It also does
not use the word illegal alien or even illegal
immigrants, instead using
"undocumented immigrants." [Immigration,
John Boozman for US Senate].
Nor does Boozman appear to be running ads or press
releases on the issue.
Polls consistently show Boozman up
by over 20%—which could make this race one of the
biggest landslide against an incumbent Senator in
history—so I won`t say that Boozman needs to bring the
issue up to win. Still, Lincoln`s flip-flops demonstrate
that she knows that her position is at odds with
Arkansas voters and I don`t see why Boozman wouldn`t
want to add a few more percentage points to his victory.
Former Speaker of
the House of Representatives Marco Rubio (R), vs.
Kendrick Meek (D) vs. Governor Charlie Crist (I).
Marco Rubio—darling of both Tea Party and Hispanic
Republicans—defeated Establishment-backed Crist and even
more conservative former Senator Bob Smith in the
Republican primary. Crist promptly rewarded
Republican Senatorial Committee for
supporting him by running
against Rubio as an independent.
Both Crist and Meek are terrible on
immigration. Meek has a career F grade from Numbers USA.
His platform states:
"Kendrick is the only candidate who has consistently supported
comprehensive immigration reform to provide a pathway to
citizenship, secure our borders, uphold the rule of law,
protect workers, and unite families. He firmly opposes
the recent Arizona immigration law and would fight
against any attempt to bring a similar measure to
Florida. It is time to create a
pathway to legalization for the nearly
12 million undocumented residents in the U.S. and
provide them an opportunity to become tax-paying
citizens and step out from the
shadows of society." [Immigration,
Kendrick Meek for US Senate]
While Crist pretends to promote a
middle ground, his platform is nearly identical to
Meek`s—except he prefaces his support for amnesty by
saying he`s against it:
"Governor Crist is not in support of an amnesty program. Governor Crist
supports immigration reform that provides an earned path
to citizenship…Just imagine if these 14 million illegal
immigrants became law abiding, tax-paying citizens and
paid into the
social security system how much better off America
Crist on Immigration, Charlie Crist: Independent
for US Senate]
As I reported in an
earlier piece on Rubio, there is good reason to be
wary of him. He has indicated support for increasing
legal immigration and as Speaker of the Florida House of
blocked half a dozen tough anti-immigration laws
from coming to a vote. (To
his credit, Rubio did
support David Vitter`s
attempt to prevent illegal aliens from being counted
for Congressional reapportionment in the Senate).
But Rubio`s response to Arizona SB
1070 is both concerning and telling. After the bill
passed, he objected,
"States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their
citizens, but Arizona`s policy shows the difficulty and
limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve
what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read
in news reports, I do have concerns about this
legislation. While I don`t believe Arizona`s policy was
based on anything other than trying to get a handle on
our broken borders, I think aspects of the law,
especially that dealing with `reasonable suspicion,` are
going to put our law enforcement officers in an
incredibly difficult position. It could also
unreasonably single out people who are here legally,
including many American citizens. Throughout American
history and throughout this administration we have seen
that when government is given an inch it takes a mile."
Rubio, Arizona Law understandable, but goes too far,
by Michael Thomas,
Orlando Sentinel, April 27, 2010]
Shortly after Rubio made these
comments, Arizona passed a
few minor amendments to SB 1070 hoping to ward off
the inevitable lawsuits.
Jason Mattera of
then interviewed Rubio, and found he had suddenly become
a supporter of the law. The interview is worth quoting
JM: Now that the Arizona
legislature has amended the law so that police can only
question a person`s legal status if there`s a lawful
stop, detention, or arrest. Have your thoughts or
MR: Well, I congratulate them on doing that… And the reason that
[the law] was
inevitable is because the federal government has failed
to provide border security,
has failed to provide a legal immigration system that works.
“But right now, for the people of Arizona, this is not (from I gathered)
this is not even an immigration issue. This is a
public safety issue. And the fact is that Mexican drug
violence has tragically crossed over the border and into
an American state and American cities. So I congratulate
them on taking steps to clarify even further the intent
of the law.
JM: If you were in the
state legislature, would you have voted for the law?
MR: The second one that passed hit the right note. Yes.
JM: The first time around, would you have?
MR: Well, I would have wanted to see changes like the ones that were
made because I know that that`s not the intent of the
bill… Understand that what
is facing is different from anything
has ever faced… Frankly, very few states in the
country can imagine what that`s like.
Rubio Clarifies Critique of Arizona Law, Jason
Events, May 6, 2010]
It is completely unbelievable that
those minor changes to SB 1070 are why Rubio changed his
position on it. They did not address his fundamental
"states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a
serious federal problem." Obviously, it just became
clear to him that any conservative worth his salt
supported SB 1070 and he didn`t want to be at odds with
Sarah Palin or
Sean Hannity. The revisions merely gave him an
excuse to flip-flop.
However, while giving the
now-obligatory support of the bill, Rubio implies that
there should be
increases in legal immigration—and that no other
state should pass such a law.
Even though Crist left the GOP, he
is taking more votes from Democrats than Republicans and
polling comfortably above both candidates.
Assuming he does take office, I
think Rubio`s record will be mixed. It is no secret that
Rubio aspires to be the next Jim DeMint—the leader of
Senate conservatives. He is politically savvy enough to
know that this is not possible if he supports amnesty,
Mike Pence`s temporary fall from grace demonstrated.
But his heart is clearly closer to the usual Cuban
Florida Republican line of
Mel Martinez and
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. His repositioning on Arizona
shows that he will weasel his way to do whatever is
necessary to be the darling of Fox News, but will move
to the left on immigration as much as politically
So what can we make out of these
candidates? It is encouraging to see
support for Arizona and opposition to amnesty become
a litmus test for conservative candidates. However, it
is still disappointing that no-one is openly supporting
cuts in legal immigration, much less a moratorium.
Still, we can hope that Angle will
stay true to her Numbers USA pledge or that Boozman will
carry on his strong record in the House into the
Senate—or that some new champion will emerge among the
freshman Senators, perhaps Alaska`s Joe Miller, who has
perfect NumbersUSA score.
At the very least, the next
Congress seems sure to be a different world.
"Washington Watcher" [email
him] is an anonymous source Inside The