AMHERST, New Hampshire — On the campaign trail, incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) forgot about all the testimony from federal immigration agents and law enforcement personnel warning Senators not to vote for the “Gang of Eight” bill.
When asked by Breitbart News at a press conference here if she read the letters from immigration agents to Senators before she voted for the bill warning it would make illegal immigration worse, she denied ever having received such testimony.
“Um, that was not the testimony that we had,” Shaheen said. “This is a bill that had strong bipartisan support from Sen. [Kelly] Ayotte, from John McCain, and in fact the Chamber of Commerce and labor groups. It had a broad coalition all suggesting that it would not only improve border security but that it would address our broken immigration system.”
What Shaheen said is not true. In fact, immigration agents from several different agencies of the federal government warned every single U.S. Senator–including Shaheen–that voting for the Gang of Eight bill would make illegal immigration in America worse.
“I write you today in both my capacity as an ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officer and as the President of the National ICE Council representing approximately 7,600 immigration officers, agents and support staff to urge you to vote on the cloture vote today on the 1,200 page substitute immigration bill,” Chris Crane, the president of the ICE council, wrote to every U.S. Senator, including Shaheen, on June 24, 2013. “I urge you to vote no as this bill fails to address the problems which have led to the nation’s broken immigration system and in fact will only serve to worsen current immigration problems.”
In the letter, Crane specifically noted that the immigration bill that Shaheen ended up voting for shortly thereafter “drastically undermine the ability of ICE officers to perform their enforcement duties,” something that ends up “threatening public safety and the integrity of our immigration system.”
Crane said that this warning was given to the sponsors of the amended bill, and they made “private acknowledgements that these extreme flaws were present” but “no action was taken to correct them due to the influence of anti-enforcement special interest groups” like the Chamber of Commerce.
“The 1,200 page proposal today not only extends legal status to a large number of criminal aliens, but also radically restricts the ability of ICE officers to remove criminal aliens and other immigration violators in the future,” Crane wrote. He added that, among other concerns, the bill “provides legalization to gang members, child abusers, domestic abusers, drunk drivers, sex offenders, and many other convicted criminals,” and it “provides legalization to future visa overstays, creating a further national security threat.”
Crane’s warning is hardly the only one from law enforcement to senators that the immigration bill would make immigration problems worse.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services union head Kenneth Palinkas, a USCIS officer who speaks for thousands of the agency’s employees, also warned Senators against voting for it.
“It will further expose the agency USCIS as inept with an already proposed massive increase in case flow that the agency is ill prepared to handle,” Palinkas said in statement before the cloture vote. “The bill does not address the needs of the USCIS workforce as it fails to fix the institutional problems in our agency, such as the need for newly-hired permanent employees versus term employees to perform the work, and the lack of training and manpower and manageable time to adjudicate for its current staff.”
Palinkas added that the bill “will lead to the rubber stamping of millions of applications for both amnesty and future admissions” and it would “allow immigrants to break the law in the future and still be eligible for citizenship, as it absolves prospective behavior, not simply past mistakes.”
In a joint statement right before senators voted for final passage of the bill, Palinkas and Crane said it “will make Americans less safe and it will ensure more illegal immigration–especially visa overstays–in the future.”
“It provides legalization for thousands of dangerous criminals while making it more difficult for our officers to identity public safety and national security threats,” they said.
Crane had also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee against the bill, several local law enforcement and retired Border Patrol officers came out publicly alongside him against the bill in a letter that was distributed to every single member of Congress in May 2013.
In the letter, they noted that Shaheen’s and other senators’ support for amnesty caused a spike in illegal immigration–something that eventually turned into what this summer became known as the “Border Crisis.”
“Driven by mere speculation that S. 744 may be enacted by Congress, illegal border crossings have spiked dramatically,” the law enforcement officials wrote to every member of Congress in May 2013. “Thousands of unaccompanied children, runaways and families now attempt to illegally enter the United States in hopes of receiving legalization. This trend will surely continue after enactment as S. 744 provides no commitment of stronger border enforcement for at least five to ten years following the initial legalization phase. Thousands will be victimized or perish as they attempt the treacherous crossing into the United States in hopes of attaining legal status. Cut off dates established in S. 744 will mean little to those in other countries who are unfamiliar with the 867 page bill. Without a strategy of border security first, S. 744 will only draw more illegal immigrants into the United States resulting in unnecessary harm to many.”
Crane signed that letter, as did National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers chairman Zack Taylor and several sheriffs nationwide, including some from the Northeastern region of the U.S.
Shaheen on Monday night joked about border security, launching an attack on her opponent, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who has moved to New Hampshire since losing his re-election bid in Massachusetts. Brown has been extraordinary successful in debunking the carpetbagger attack leveled against him since he’s been running on his record as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.
“We sorta let this guy sneak over the border,” Shaheen joked Monday evening. “You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been debating border security a little bit in this campaign. Clearly, we didn’t do enough to secure the southern border of New Hampshire.”
When asked by a reporter here at her press conference on Tuesday if that joke was “appropriate” given “the serious nature of border security,” Shaheen defended it.
“That was in a room full of my supporters,” Shaheen said. “They appreciate the humor in that joke.”
Shaheen then jumped into a full-throated defense of the Gang of Eight immigration bill.
“But the serious nature of immigration reform is real and the fact is I supported immigration reform that would significantly improve our border security between the United States and Mexico,” Shaheen said. “If we had actually passed that over a year ago when the Senate voted with a strong bipartisan vote–if the House had taken it up, and there were the votes there in the House to pass it–we would already be starting to improve our border security with a 700-mile fence, with an almost doubling of border agents, with additional funds for surveillance and interdiction. It’s very disappointing that my opponent has refused to support that legislation.”
Shaheen’s press conference was at a winery, where Amy LaBelle of LaBelle Winery in Amherst endorsed her. LaBelle noted she is a registered Republican and small business owner.
But Scott Brown’s campaign did one better than Shaheen on Tuesday morning on the bipartisan endorsement front, as Brown’s campaign announced the endorsement of former Democratic state Sen. Bob Preston, who served eight years as the Democratic leader in the state senate.
“With all due respect to Senator Shaheen, she has not been able to address these problem and has gone along to get along with President Obama increasing the budget deficit until each American family is not in debt nationally in excess of $150,000,” Preston wrote in an open letter urging New Hampshire citizens to vote for Brown next Tuesday, mentioning Brown’s tough positions on immigration, foreign policy, veterans’ issues, and healthcare.