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Fact Check: Jeanne Shaheen Lies About Senate Immigration Bill

Fact Check: Jeanne Shaheen Lies About Senate Immigration Bill

CONCORD, New Hampshire — Incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) lied at least twice about the Senate immigration bill during Thursday night’s debate against former Sen. Scott Brown.

The first lie Shaheen told about the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill was that she claimed President Barack Obama didn’t support it.

“The bill that I’m talking about is one that passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats. It’s not a bill that the president supported,” she said.

The claim that the bill is “not a bill that the president supported” is simply untrue. Obama has actually been one of the bill’s chief supporters, and has called for its passage multiple times.

“There are a few differences here and there, but the truth of the matter is that the Senate bill has the main components of comprehensive immigration reform that would boost our economy, give us an opportunity to attract more investment and high-skilled workers who are doing great things in places like Silicon Valley and around the country,” Obama said in December 2013, for instance. “So let’s go ahead and get that done.”

Later in the debate, Shaheen said that people who are in the United States illegally do not get public benefits.

“First of all, people who are here illegally don’t get preferential benefits,” she said. “The fact is, if you want border security you should support comprehensive immigration reform. This is a bill that has bipartisan support. It deals not only with border security; it deals with the people who are here illegally. And it deals with our broken visa system.”

The way the senator worded that statement could be understood in one of two ways. She could be talking about how people here illegally would be treated under the Senate immigration bill or she could be speaking about what benefits illegal aliens have access to in general. Either way, she’s wrong.

According to an analysis by Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), under the Senate immigration bill, illegal aliens would have immediate access to state and local welfare benefits. Sessions’ staff wrote in the memo announcing the analysis back in 2013:

The Gang of Eight’s proposal would grant green cards and citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, providing them with guaranteed access to all welfare and entitlement programs. Sponsors of the legislation have not denied this fact, but simply replied that illegal immigrants will not become officially eligible for taxpayer-funded aid for 13 years. However, several loopholes have been identified that reveal many illegal immigrants will gain access to public benefits far sooner than the 13-year timeframe advertised.

Specifically, Sessions’ team noted that nearly every illegal alien who would be legalized “could immediately become eligible for state and local public benefits in many states” because many state laws “extend benefits including cash assistance, food assistance, and health care” to anyone who is considered “lawfully present” in the U.S.

In addition to that, the illegal aliens–an estimated two to three million–who would fall under the bill’s DREAM Act provisions, Sessions’ staff wrote, “will become eligible for nearly all federal assistance” in five years or less, as they attain citizenship quicker than the rest of the public.

“Agriculture workers will get green cards in five years and become citizens in 10,” Sessions’ staff added. “Due to income and education levels, legalized ag workers would likely have higher rates of welfare use and receive more in net benefits from Medicare and Social Security than they contribute.”

If Shaheen meant that illegal aliens in the U.S. now don’t get benefits–regardless of the Gang of Eight bill–she’s also wrong. An investigation by Indianapolis television channel 13 WTHR found that the IRS has been paying billions of dollars in the form of tax rebates to illegal aliens. That finding was subsequently confirmed by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, which found that in 2010, a total of $4.2 billion was paid out to illegal aliens in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Republicans in the Senate have sought to close that loophole letting illegal aliens get tax benefits for years, but Democrats like Shaheen have fought against doing so. In fact, earlier this year, Democrats killed a bill from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that would have taken the money given to illegal aliens in tax benefits and provided it to veterans to restore cuts to their pensions. Those veterans pension cuts were made as a result of the budget deal from Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chairmen of the Senate and House Budget Committees, respectively.

Ayotte said on the Senate floor about her amendment that the Democrats voted against in lock step

What it would simply require is those who seek the additional child tax credit to file a Social Security number just like those who seek the Earned Income Tax Credit in this country. And why is that? Because the investigations of this tax refund that people receive found that they were claiming it for people who were, number one, not authorized to work in this country [and] were claiming it, and secondly, for children that might not even exist. Investigations found that children who don’t even live in this country [were getting the tax credit].

Ayotte argued her amendment would “pay for three months of unemployment insurance for American workers for this issue that we have before this chamber.” She added:

It would pay for a fix to the military retirement cuts to the COLA that also impacted our wounded warriors that were done in the most recent budget that were unfair. Members of both sides of the aisle have come together to say we should fix [that] and say it’s unfair. What else would it do? It would reduce the deficit. And what I hear from the Majority Leader is I hear ‘well we’ve heard that idea before.’ Well, we may have heard it before, but we’ve not been allowed a vote on it.

Nonetheless, Shaheen wouldn’t vote for it. She stood, as Brown likes to say, with the president and the Democrats.

Brown offered very different views on immigration during the debate, as it’s an issue he’s honed in on throughout the campaign. Brown said:

I think it’s very important to talk about immigration. I voted to send troops to the border. I voted to close the border. She’s voted the complete opposite. She voted for a bill that would have given the president the authority to legalize about 11 million people, give them the ability to work and take away jobs from people in this country. I’m going to be working for the people of New Hampshire so they can get jobs. It’s a real problem. The way to stop it is he’s preparing right now to legalize additional people who are not entitled to those benefits. We need to deal with the funding issues regarding that.

Brown said illegal aliens should not have access to any public benefits:

Whatever we do with the people who are here illegally, I cannot support a bill or any effort to provide them EBT cards, preferential housing or any other benefits they have not earned. A huge difference between Sen. Shaheen and me and President Obama is about border security. It’s about immigration. She supports the DREAM Act. I don’t. She supports the president’s use of his executive authority. Right now, he’s preparing by all accounts to actually legalize people who are here illegally who are not entitled to the protections and/or the rights and privileges that have been earned by our citizens.

Brown added that it’s an insult to those who immigrated to the United States legally to give special treatment illegal aliens, like Shaheen and Obama want to do. He said:

And what about the 4.6 million people who are actually following the law? What do you say to them? It’s wrong. We need to make sure that we step in. We have an opportunity folks. We can actually take over the Senate and go over the funding source and make sure that the president can’t do that. Whatever plan we have, whatever we do, I can’t continue to provide benefits and reward that illegality. Is there a process? Potentially. But until we’re absolutely sure they can’t get those benefits to continue to reward that illegality, I can’t support it.

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