Under attack from a Republican primary opponent for supporting “an amnesty agenda,” U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is defending his vote for a Senate-approved bill to overhaul immigration laws.
State Rep. Joe Carr, the most active of Alexander’s Republican opponents, last week issued multiple statements and news releases criticizing the incumbent on the issue, most noting that similar attacks played a role in the recent upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia Republican primary.
Some of the releases point to national attention Carr has received on the subject, including an interview with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, who had supported David Brat, the victor over Cantor in Virginia. Carr signed a “no amnesty pledge” promoted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform on her show, Politico reported.
“The American people overwhelmingly reject the amnesty agenda that has led to a national crisis on our southern border,” Carr declared in a Friday release. “Our border is disappearing before our very eyes and Tennessee’s senior Senator made it happen. The situation on the border is deteriorating and Lamar Alexander remains silent.”
Similarly, Carr declared on a Nashville talk radio show that American workers are “suffering the effects of an unskilled, barrage of illegal immigrants coming to the United States for the sole purpose of granting amnesty.”
“When Lamar Alexander sides with Barack Obama to giving amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens at a cost of $40 billion, he flies in the face of the rule of law, the constitutional and the American worker and there probably not a more egregious thing that he has done than to have voted yes on amnesty for these illegals.”
Alexander, who previously has declined to respond directly to anything said by his primary opponents, did send an indirect answer Friday on his immigration bill vote in response to a reporter’s inquiry.
“We have amnesty today. Turning your head while 11 million people are already here illegally is perpetual amnesty,” Alexander said in the email.
“I voted along with 67 other United States senators to end perpetual amnesty. The bill I voted for does what we usually do with people who break the law: it identifies them, assesses penalty, requires payment of back taxes and requires them to work.
“If they have committed no felonies they are then allowed to live and work here. But they are not citizens, and they are not eligible for federal means-tested benefits, such as health care, food stamps and other welfare programs.
“Not one senator offered an amendment to round up 11 million illegal immigrants and send them home. So either you treat them like others who break the law as the Senate bill does, or you ignore the problem.
“Of course the first thing to do with the current immigration mess is to stop more people from coming here. The Senate bill doubled the number of border patrol agents, and added 350 miles of border fencing. It also encouraged economic growth and jobs by creating a legal way for talented people and essential workers to come to the United States.
“I chose to secure the border, end perpetual amnesty and encourage jobs, rather than do nothing.”
When he voted for the comprehensive immigration legislation last year, Alexander praised an amendment added on motion of Sen. Bob Corker that called for adding 20,000 officers to the nation’s border patrol. Though it passed the Senate, the bill has never been brought up for a vote in the House.
Carr says he would have voted against the bill. George Flinn of Memphis, a millionaire physician and radio station owner who is also opposing Alexander, issued a news release that does not give his view on the bill but declares “border security needs to evolve from a physical barrier to a comprehensive system that employs advanced technology such as electro-optical sensors and unmanned air systems.”
Carr’s campaign has indicated it will run new TV commercials starting this week and immigration may be a topic. Alexander began running new radio ads on Sunday, according to his campaign, that have six narrators from various parts of the state praising his accomplishments as governor and senator.