A series of videos from several town halls in 2013 have surfaced showing that Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) supports amnesty for illegal aliens, despite claims from his re-election campaign that he is against allowing illegal aliens stay in America.
In the videos, Sessions frames his support for amnesty as granting legal status to illegal aliens who are not violent criminals–but somehow not citizenship, even though anyone who obtains a green card is allowed to eventually apply for citizenship. Sessions described such an amnesty as aiming to “accommodate” illegal aliens, “millions of people who are here for the right reasons.” He also said that he thinks “the vast majority of people who are here” as long as they are “here truly for the right reason,” should and “would be welcomed.”
“I believe that my colleagues in the House have on a sheet of paper designed a system that would accommodate millions of people who are here for the right reasons, millions of people who today may be illegal–illegally here–but who would be handled fairly under a process,” Sessions is seen saying on one video from 2013.
“But we should not take those that are here who are dangerous who have committed serious crimes and to do like what the administration did when they released 2,000 people the first week of sequestration, of people who had committed felony offenses. We got to worry about trying to define these things and trying to separate–being here is one matter, being a criminal and dangerous to this country is another because if you come to this country legally you have to pass a background check and that background check is something that I believe is still difficult for some. But if you’re here truly for the right reason, I think the vast majority of people are here and they would be welcomed. I think we have to separate that fact from the rest.”
Much like how many other Republicans in House GOP leadership–and even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) did when he was pushing the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill–Sessions attempted later to argue that his support for granting legal status to illegal aliens is not “amnesty.”
At a different town hall event on a separate night, a woman asked Sessions about the Heritage Foundation study that found amnesty would add trillions to the national debt–specifically asking him: “I believe you stated you support amnesty for those illegal aliens who have passed a background check.”
Sessions denied having said what he is seen on video saying in the first town hall. “No ma’am,” he replied. “I don’t recall ever saying that. It’s not in my written literature and I have had a policy for [unintelligible] years, and that’s never been a part of it–my policy, writing or what I’ve said. So please strike that and I will tell you that is not true and incorrect, thank you.”
Even though he denied supporting amnesty in that second town hall, Sessions again publicly endorsed granting legal status–i.e., amnesty–to illegal aliens in an early 2014 editorial board interview with the Dallas Morning News. “Sessions backs a guest worker program under which those in the country illegally could keep their jobs and pay taxes but not obtain citizenship,” the paper wrote on Jan. 23 this year.
Sessions, who the New York Times describes as a “top lieutenant” of House Speaker John Boehner, served as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), an official party arm used by the House GOP leadership to support candidates they want in Congress from 2008 until 2012.
He is now chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. All legislation up for a vote on the House floor goes through the Rules Committee, putting him in a key position in deciding how any immigration bill would be considered.
These new videos were obtained by Breitbart Texas on Saturday evening, and add a new dynamic to the election that will happen in Texas next week. The immigration issue has gotten extra attention as of late in this race, as Sheriff Joe Arpaio pulled an endorsement of Katrina Pierson–a Tea Party activist challenging Sessions in the primary election, which takes place on Tuesday. Arpaio claimed that Pierson inaccurately told him that Sessions was pro-amnesty, and he has since learned Sessions actually opposes amnesty.
The Sessions campaign jumped on Arpaio’s announcement to take a shot at Pierson, and declare that the congressman does not support amnesty. “Ms. Pierson should be ashamed for misleading an individual of such great respect in the law enforcement community and as a national conservative leader,” Sessions campaign spokesman Bruce Harvie told the Dallas Morning News.
But these videos–and scores of data from anti-amnesty grassroots group NumbersUSA showing Sessions’ pro-amnesty positions over the past several years, and other developments like the January Dallas Morning News editorial board interview–prove otherwise: Sessions supports amnesty.
In response to a request for comment from Breitbart Texas, Sessions’ campaign spokesman Bruce Harvie said that “Pete is absolutely opposed to amnesty and he has worked hard to make sure we don’t give away legal status the way that Senate did.”
Harvie added that Sessions believes granting legal status to illegal aliens is not “amnesty.”
“Everyone with legal status isn’t necessarily a permanent resident,” Harvie said. “There are a number of visas, including work visas and seasonal visas that guarantee no legal status, or citizenship, in the future.”
Immigration hawks like Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), not to be confused with the Congressman Pete Sessions who this article is about, have argued individuals who achieved”legal status” would easily be able to obtain citizenship.
“Any path that leads to a green card for someone who is currently ineligible for a green card because they violated U.S. immigration laws, such as the Senate bill, is a special path to citizenship,” Sen. Jeff Sessions wrote a Myth vs. Fact document earlier this year. “Like the Senate plan, the House plan provides legal status and work authorization first – the fundamental grant of amnesty,” he wrote.
Pierson, on the other hand, is a fierce fighter against amnesty. Last summer, she was one of only a few conservative leaders who rallied against the GOP establishment and Democrats’ immigration plans in Washington during the Black American Leadership Alliance’s March For Jobs. In response to these developments, she told Breitbart Texas that “Pete Sessions has admitted, on camera, that he supports legalizing millions of illegals.”
“That’s amnesty, whatever euphemism Sessions wants to apply to it,” Pierson said, adding that Boehner and Cantor are relying on him for any amnesty plays they plan to run in 2014 or beyond.
“As Rules Chair, Pete Sessions controls the floor of the House,” Pierson said. “What he supports goes forward to the House floor. What he opposes dies in Rules. An amnesty bill can only go forward with Pete Sessions’ support, so his position on amnesty is critical–and he’s on the wrong side.”
Pierson points to recent reports that House GOP leadership and Boehner plan to move on amnesty after GOP primaries as a concern grassroots conservatives should have this year.
Pierson has surged in recent weeks, especially after an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and from various national conservative organizations. What the GOP establishment both in Washington, D.C., and in Texas, thought was originally going to be a mild nuisance from Pierson against Sessions, who would cakewalk to re-election, is turning into a bitter battle at the last minute with establishment forces descending into the Dallas district to attack Pierson in the few days before the finish line. While it remains to be seen what will happen, Pierson might just pull this race off–or she might not. But either way, in the process, she has exposed Sessions for being a supporter of amnesty, and won other successes like putting the fear of God into Sessions and other GOP establishment lawmakers as they stumble–instead of glide–to election day.
“Primary campaigns against party leaders are often more of a nuisance than a serious threat, token challenges waged by local gadflies,” the New York Times wrote in a late February piece on GOP leadership officials’ primary challenges, a piece featuring Pierson. “But what is startling to Republicans this year is the sheer number of candidates who are willing to take on the party’s most powerful players in Washington, and the backing they are receiving from third-party groups.”