Politics & Policy

Immigration Battle Rages on in Nevada Senate Race

Team Reid lets no grass grow under its feet. The campaign has a new ad out that directly addresses the immigration ad released by Sharron Angle’s campaign on Tuesday.

The spot says Harry Reid has been tough on border issues including getting 400 miles of fence built, getting 4,000 new border agents assigned, and getting drones and the National Guard sent down to the border to boot. The commercial also pushes back on the allegation that Reid approves of Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants and then goes on the offense on Social Security:

Reid’s “yea” vote on the 2006 immigration overhaul bill did indeed authorize the border security measures claimed in the ad, but remarks he made in July on immigration issues raised some eyebrows in Nevada.

Reid was questioned about immigration and jobs, specifically as related to the Nevada construction industry. The queries were prompted by concerns with the employment of illegal aliens in Nevada along with Reid’s refusal to allow a vote on the 2009 E-Verify amendment, which would have enabled employers more easily to determine if job applicants are U.S. citizens.

Reid replied that his primary reason for disallowing a vote on E-Verify was that a single amendment is not “the silver bullet to fixing our broken immigration system” and that comprehensive immigration reform is needed. He added that the system lacked accuracy, though many data studies have shown it is 98 percent accurate.

When asked about present-day concerns that unemployed construction workers are standing in line for unemployment benefits because Nevada construction companies find it easier to hire undocumented workers, Reid said the premise was “absolutely without foundation” and posited that this occurs in other places, but “not here in Nevada.” 

His answers to both questions along with comments from a Nevada union representative are included in this July news report: 

Reid’s optimism is unfounded. A recent Pew Hispanic Center study did indeed show that 17 percent of all construction workers are in the United States illegally, and the 2009 numbers show Nevada as the state with the highest percentage of “unauthorized immigrants” in its work force.

Recent polls show 54 percent of the state’s voters believe illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Nevada citizens, and 46 percent think the state’s economy would be better if those who are not here legally were removed from the workforce.

Nevada is by reputation a libertarian, hands-off state which in boom times has often looked the other way on issues of illegal immigration and the employment of undocumented workers, but voter sentiment seems to be shifting in light of the economy and the state’s high unemployment rates.

The Angle campaign this afternoon came out with a rapid-response press release after the Reid ad was circulated. It criticized some of Reid’s past positions and votes on immigration, including his “yea” vote on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, S. 2611, which contained a clause exempting aliens who become legalized from past instances of identity fraud:

(Sec. 614) Amends the Social Security Act to exempt blue card aliens from prosecution for social security-related identity or payment false statements if such conduct occurred prior to the granting of blue card status. Makes such provision effective on the first day of the seventh month that begins after the date of enactment of this Act.

The Angle press release also pointed to Reid’s vote on S. 2611 to support the contention that he favors granting Social Security benefits to illegal aliens. However, prior law already allowed an immigrant to receive credit for future Social Security benefits for work done while they were still illegal–so long as they have obtained authorization to work and a valid Social Security number.

Reid did, however, vote against an amendment to the Act barring immigrants from claiming Social Security credits for work done before they became citizens and were issued a valid Social Security number. The amendment was proposed by Nevada’s other senator, John Ensign.

Reid’s currently proposed comprehensive immigration reform plan, according to his campaign website, is centered on the desire to provide undocumented workers the opportunity to “come out of the shadows, get right with the law and have the opportunity to earn citizenship.” 

His plan calls for a fraud-proof Social Security card for all workers; raising penalties for employers who hire unauthorized workers; requiring existing illegal aliens to register with the government, pay fines and taxes, learn English, and go to the end of the legal immigration line. It also includes securing the border as a precondition to the other clauses taking effect.


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