Senate Democrats


Washington, DCJim Manley, spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, released the following statement on Republican efforts to mislead the nation about their attempts to turn immigrants into felons.

A fact check on Republican claims on immigration reform follows below.

“It’s no surprise President Bush’s party would try and mislead the nation about immigration reform, but no matter how far they run from the truth, they can’t hide it–Republicans tried to turn immigrants into felons. Democrats have consistently supported comprehensive immigration reform, and Senator Reid has led the fight for tough, smart, and fair solutions to fix our broken immigration system.”


FACT CHECK: Republicans Misleading on Immigration

RNC CLAIM: ANNOUNCER: Terrorists coming across our borders … drugs smuggled to America’s shores … But just last week, there was hope. Congress was working on immigration reform … to secure our borders and protect American families. But Democrat Leader Harry Reid let us down. Harry Reid played politics and blocked our leaders from working together.”

FACT: Not a Single Republican Joined Democrats to Support Ending Debate and Moving to a Vote on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. [RC 88, S.Amdt. 3192 to S. 2454, 4/7/06, RC 89, S. 2454, 4/8/06]

FACT: Senator Reid Opposed the House Immigration Bill, and Supported the Judiciary Committee’s Approach to Comprehensive Reform.

Senator Reid Repeatedly Spoke on the Senate Floor in Support of Comprehensive Reform. For example: “I think the House bill is profoundly misguided. It purports to be a border security bill, but it contains provisions that aren’t about securing our borders at all. It makes criminals out of and demonizes a lot of hard-working people who are just trying to provide for their families. In my view the House bill is mean-spirited and un-American. It is not going to solve the problem.

– “In contrast, the Senate Judiciary Committee bill would take real steps to restore order to our immigration system. It combines tough, effective enforcement with smart reforms to the immigration laws. It would strengthen our borders, crack down on employers who hire illegally, and bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. It would require them to learn English and pay taxes.” [C.R., 3/30/06]

FACT: Republican Attack Strategy Aimed at Avoiding Blame, Not Resolving the Stalemate. “With this misleading statement, Hastert and Frist seem worried less about resolving the stalemate than trying to ensure that Republicans won’t be blamed if it persists.” [L.A. Times, 4/16/06]

RNC CLAIM: “Reid’s Democrat allies voted to treat millions of hardworking immigrants … as felons …”

FACT: Republicans in the House Passed the Immigration Measure Criminalizing Undocumented Immigrants. The House immigration bill passed 239 to 182, with 203 Republicans voting yes. Seventeen Republicans joined 164 Democrats and one independent to oppose the measure. [RC 661, H R 4437, 12/16/05]

FACT: Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee Passed the Felony Provision on a Party Line Vote. [RC 3, Judiciary Committee Markup of HR 4437, 12/8/05]

FACT: Representative Sensenbrenner Boasted that His Bill Would Create 11 Million New Felons.

– Mr. Putnam: It is a civil offense to be here, but if this passes, we will have 11 million new felons? …

– Mr. Sensenbrenner: That is correct…the fact of the matter is that current penalties do not sufficiently act as a deterrent against illegal immigration. We have got to have penalties that are strong enough….

– Mr. Putnam: [a] 17-year old girl, if the bill passes, is it correct by virtue of the fact that she was brought here illegally as a 6-month old baby, she would be a felon, and if the law were enforced, she would have [to] be incarcerated? Is that correct? …

– Mr. Sensenbrenner: I believe it is. [Transcript of Rules Committee Emergency Hearing on HR 4437, December 14, 2005, pps. 42-45]

FACT: In the Senate Judiciary Committee, All Democrats Rejected a Republican Attempt to Criminalize Immigrants. Senate Democrats fought to eliminate a provision in the Republican immigration bill that would have criminalized undocumented immigrants. Led by Senator Dick Durbin, Judiciary Committee Democrats passed an amendment that struck provisions from the bill that would make undocumented immigrants subject to criminal penalties if they are in the United States knowing that their presence violates the terms of any admission, parole, immigration status or authorized stay granted under the bill. The amendment passed 11-6, with the support of all Judiciary Committee Democrats. [CQ, 3/27/06]

FACT: In the Senate Judiciary Committee, All Democrats Voted to Remove Penalties for Those Providing Humanitarian Assistance to the Undocumented. “DeWine and Brownback also joined Democrats on an amendment that would remove penalties against humanitarian workers caught helping illegal immigrants. The amendment by Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., was adopted, 10-7, after the panel defeated a second-degree amendment by Kyl that would have required anyone planning to provide such assistance to register in advance with the Department of Homeland Security.” [CQ, 3/27/06]

FACT: Republicans Voted for Cloture on Majority Leader Bill Frist’s Immigration Proposal, Which Included a Provision Criminalizing Undocumented Immigrants. Senator Frist’s bill would have made illegal presence in the country a misdemeanor. Thirty-four Republican Senators voted in favor of cloture on Frist’s Bill. 42 of 43 Democrats voting opposed it. [RC 90, S. 2454, 4/7/06]

FACT: Democrats Opposed the Felony Proposal from the Start. “Contrary to the description from Hastert and Frist, Democrats and immigrant groups opposed this proposal from the start. In particular, they charged that the idea advanced a hidden agenda distinct from the argument about equalizing the penalties for overstaying a visa and sneaking across the border. [L.A. Times, 4/16/06]

FACT: Republicans – Not Democrats – Have Advocated Criminalizing Illegal Immigrants. “To attribute the idea to Democrats, Frist, Hastert and the RNC have to join the story on the last page — and then misrepresent the evidence to boot. In fact, from the start of the recent debate, Republicans have driven the notion of imposing criminal penalties on illegal immigrants. Although President Bush has never acknowledged paternity, the idea’s fathers include his administration.” [L.A. Times, 4/16/06]

FACT: House Democrats Voted to Oppose the Republican Effort to Increase the Penalty for Illegal Presence in the U.S. to a Criminal Misdemeanor. “Hastert and Frist charged that House Democrats voted to oppose ‘efforts to reduce the crime of unlawful presence … from a felony to a misdemeanor.’ In fact, House Democrats opposed an effort to increase the penalty for unlawful presence from a civil violation to a criminal misdemeanor.” [L.A. Times, 4/16/06]

FACT: House Democrats Voted Against the Sensenbrenner Amendment because They are Opposed to Criminalizing Undocumented Immigrants. “If House Democrats supported the Sensenbrenner amendment, they would have been voting to make unlawful presence a misdemeanor. But almost all Democrats believe it should not be a crime. The House Democrats’ bill retains unlawful presence as a civil, not criminal, violation.” [L.A. Times, 4/16/06]

RNC CLAIM: ” . . . President Bush and Republican leaders work for legislation that will protect our borders and honor our immigrants.”

FACT: Republicans Don’t Support Moving Forward with Comprehensive Immigration Reform:

Representative Henry Bonilla Says the Promise by Republican Leaders to Eliminate Their Measure Criminalizing Illegal Immigrants Isn’t a Done Deal. Bonilla: “It would be very premature to say something would go one way or the other . . . .It’s one thing for the leadership to say something is going to happen, but it’s another for the rank and file to go along. . . [The felony provision] was in the bill and it received a majority of the vote. No one has distributed any language on this.” [AP, 4/15/06]

Senator Cornyn Tells the President to Stay Away from the Immigration Debate. “In a statement Thursday night, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who helped to broker the Senate compromise, urged the president to take a more active role in the Senate debate when it resumes. But Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who opposed the measure, said the president should weigh in later.” [New York Times, 4/14/06]

Frist is the Only Member of the GOP Leadership Team to Support the Senate Proposal – Kyl, Hutchinson, Santorum Oppose; Dole and McConnell Duck the Question. “And while Frist indicated support last week for the leading Senate proposal, he was the only member of the GOP leadership to do so. Two other members of the group, Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, voiced their opposition. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania opposes the measure, according to a spokesman. Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who heads the party’s senatorial campaign committee, declined this week through an aide to take a position on the bill. A spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell, the second-ranking Republican, sidestepped a question by saying the Kentucky lawmaker favors a comprehensive approach.” [AP, 4/11/06]

Senator Coburn Says No Bill Including “Amnesty” Will Make It Out of Congress: “I want to tell you, there isn’t going to be a bill come out of the Congress that has amnesty in it. It isn’t going to happen.” [Lou Dobbs Tonight, 4/14/06]