Facing Primary Challenger, Lamar Alexander Digs In on Amnesty
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is boldly defending his vote for the Senate "Gang Of Eight" immigration bill as he campaigns for re-election in Tennessee, after his Tea Party-backed primary challenger Joe Carr has made the issue a central point in his campaign.
In an emailed statement to Breitbart News, Alexander issued a strong defense of his support for immigration reform – first published in the Knoxville News Sentinel.
"We have amnesty today,” Alexander said. "Turning your head while 11 million people are already here illegally is perpetual amnesty. I voted along with 67 other United States senators to end perpetual amnesty.”
Last year, Alexander was one of fourteen Republican senators who voted in favor of the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
The bill was denounced by critics for providing a "path to citizenship" for millions of illegal aliens currently residing in the U.S. after ten years.
Carr launched his latest attack on Alexander over immigration Sunday in an interview with Breitbart News on Sirius/XM Breitbart News Sunday with host Stephen K. Bannon.
“There’s this arrogance about these people who stay in Washington,” Carr said, referring to the border crisis and the immigration reform debate. “The arrogance that they say – you know what, it doesn’t matter that they are flooding our labor markets with unskilled labor and driving down American wages, it doesn’t matter as long as we cater to the United States Chamber of Commerce.”
Carr also praised Sen. Jeff Sessions for doing a “phenomenal job” for standing against immigration reform in the Senate and raising awareness about amnesty. Sessions has broadened criticism of immigration reform beyond amnesty and the rule of law to the impact new immigrants would have on Americans' wages.
Alexander insisted that the bill he voted for identifies illegal immigrants and requires them to pay a penalty and back taxes and requires them to work.
During consideration of the bill, proponents touted a requirement that aliens pay "back taxes" as a major feature of the proposal. However, GOP proposals to piece together tax liability from the period in which aliens illegally resided in the U.S. were scrapped for a much more lenient requirement to pay any currently outstanding liabilities already known by the IRS. Since that wouldn't capture most taxes owed by illegal immigrants, critics denounced it as a "fraud," and Rubio softened his rhetoric on the matter, eventually only promising aliens would "pay taxes."
"Not one senator offered an amendment to round up 11 million illegal immigrants and send them home,” he added. “So either you treat them like others who break the law as the Senate bill does, or you ignore the problem.”
Alexander also says the bill provides border security at a time when streams of illegal immigrants are crossing into the United States.
"The Senate bill doubled the number of border patrol agents and added 350 miles of border fencing,” he wrote.
A border security amendment to the Rubio-Schumer bill roughly doubled the size of the border patrol by adding 20,000 agents at a cost of $46 billion over ten years. Top immigration hawks said the proposal didn't address root causes of illegal immigration. The bill "throws money at U.S. border security, with no guarantees of actions and often in slush funds with little accountability," wrote Jessica Zuckerman and David Inserra at the Heritage Foundation.
Alexander voted to advance debate on the bill – in the initial cloture vote to begin consideration that passed 82-15 – before the border security amendment was introduced.
Carr, Alexander’s Republican primary opponent, has made immigration reform a central piece of his campaign – particularly after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary race in Virginia.
Carr signed the FAIR pledge live on conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham’s radio program and challenged Alexander to do the same.
The pledge asks candidates to vow to oppose amnesty, increases in legal immigration, and increases in the number of guest workers.
But Alexander defended the Gang of Eight bill as one that would encourage jobs and economic growth in the United States by allowing “talented people and essential workers” to come to the United States legally.
"I chose to secure the border, end perpetual amnesty and encourage jobs, rather than do nothing," he said.