SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL)
“All our staff has been working for days trying to decipher this gobbledygook. And I’m told that you read it two, three times, and you get a different insight each time you read it.” – Senator Sessions about Gang of 8 Immigration Bill, Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, April 26, 2013
Senator Sessions has an ugly history with race relations and civil rights, once joking that (in the words of a New Republic profile) he “‘used to think [the KKK] were ok‘ until he found out some of them were ‘pot smokers’” and calling the 1965 Voting Rights Act an “piece of intrusive legislation.” Sessions also has a history of opposing immigrants and immigration reform. When Alabama passed its state self-deportation law, HB 56, and Sessions was asked about how the law had left Hispanic children too afraid to go to school, his only comment was that the kids shouldn’t have been here in the first place. Sessions is closely affiliated with anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA—his former longtime chief of staff, David Armand DeKeyser, is now a lobbyist for a firm often employed by NumbersUSA. And in May 2012, Sen. Sessions entered a statement into the Congressional record congratulating NumbersUSA on its 15th anniversary—an honor the famously nativist Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) had paid the organization five years earlier. These days Senator Sessions is trying to kill immigration reform by stalling it—first by writing a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) asking him to slow down the legislative process, and then by repeatedly claiming that the bill is incomprehensible and makes no sense.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA)
“Given the events of this week, it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system. While we don’t yet know the immigration status of the people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out, it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system.” – Sen. Grassley arguing that the Boston bombings should affect how immigration reform legislation moves forward, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, April 19, 2013
Like Sen. Vitter, Sen. Grassley has a problem with the Department of Homeland Security and the use of prosecutorial discretion for immigrants—even though deportation numbers have for years been record-high. In 2010, he leaked a USCIS memo discussing options for prosecutorial discretion to anti-immigrant groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA. Even though the memo sought to “promote family unity, foster economic growth, achieve significant process improvements, and reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals,” Grassley still saw “amnesty” in the memo, and warned Obama to not pursue the outlined actions, which would have helped keep families together and protect DREAMers from deportation.
Sen. Grassley’s legislative interests frequently involve E-Verify, which he has introduced numerous times and which anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA and FAIR both extensively lobby for. One way Sen. Grassley has attempted to reduce the presence of immigrants was through a 2012 amendment to the Violence Against Woman Act (VAWA) that would have removed a previously-existing clause that provided visas for undocumented victims of sexual violence. Grassley was staunchly opposed to reauthorizing VAWA and used his influence as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to push Republican members of the committee to unanimously oppose it.
Sen. Grassley, in his capacity as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also frequently invites guests from FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies to testify at committee hearings. During one recent Senate hearing alone, he invited five of these witnesses to testify—Mark Krikorian, Janice Kephart, and Steve Camarota from the Center for Immigration Studies; Kris Kobach, who is former counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute (the legal arm of FAIR); and Chris Crane, the ICE Union president currently suing the Obama administration over deferred action alongside Kobach. Before that, Grassley also invited Michael Cutler, a former fellow at CIS; Jan C. Ting, a CIS board member; Eric Ruark, the Director of Research for FAIR; Dan Stein, President of FAIR; Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies at CIS; David North, a Fellow at CIS; and Steve Camarota, Director of Research at CIS to testify at various Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. And that’s just in the last two Congresses (the current Congress so far, and the 112th) alone.
Most recently, Sen. Grassley has spent multiple Senate hearings arguing that immigration reform should be slowed down or stalled to consider the impact of the Boston bombings.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX)
“Friend on border sez 300 ppl coming across his property every night. And Napolitano sez border is under control?” – Sen. Cornyn, tweeting about how an unnamed “friend” sees hundreds of immigrants crossing his property every night. Cornyn has never backed up this claim, despite multiple inquires. Twitter, February 20, 2013
We like to call Sen. Cornyn the “biggest hypocrite on immigration reform,” because he has a long history of talking the talk—but then refusing to walk the walk. In 2010, he was one of the Senators who refused to support the DREAM Act, keeping it from obtaining the 60 votes it needed to pass through the Senate. Yet a month later, at a Hispanic Leadership Network conference, he portrayed himself as a dedicated supporter of immigration reform.
Cornyn is doing the same thing again this year. In April, he talked about the need to fix our broken immigration system. But he’s also introduced a standalone enforcement bill that focuses on border security only and signed Jeff Sessions’ delay tactic letter to Sen. Leahy. When the DREAMers with the DRM Action Coalition called Cornyn out for his hypocrisy in a Houston Chronicle op-ed, Cornyn swore at them, calling the article “complete bs.”
Recently Sen. Cornyn has made multiple statements about ‘friends’ who own border property overrun by incoming immigrants—and then refused to substantiate or verify these comments when pressed. The DSCC has even taunted Cornyn about his apparently-fabricated claims, releasing a press release wondering who his “mysterious friend[s]” are.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX)
“I think the reason that President Obama is insisting on a path to citizenship is that it is designed to be a poison pill to scuttle the whole bill, so he can have a political issue in 2014 and 2016. I think that’s really unfortunate.” – Sen. Cruz on the Gang of 8 immigration bill and its path to citizenship, interview with Sean Hannity, April 1, 2013
Sen. Cruz is developing a reputation as a mean-spirited flame-thrower in the Senate, calling his fellow Senators “squishes,” referring to Newtown families as “political props,” and welcoming charges that he’s dabbling in McCarthyism as “a sign that we’re doing something right.”
On immigration, Cruz slammed the Supreme Court last year for striking down most of Arizona’s SB 1070 anti-immigrant law, said he wanted to end in-state tuition for “illegal aliens,” and called on Mitt Romney to end President Obama’s deferred action for DREAMers (DACA) program. Cruz now says he’s willing to support immigration reform, but only if the legislation does not include citizenship, something Cruz called “a poison pill.”
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R-LA)
“I am extremely pleased that the U.S. Senate has once again rejected the illegal alien student bailout known as the DREAM Act.” – Statement, December 9, 2010
Senator Vitter’s claim to fame is his involvement in the 2007 “DC Madam” scandal, when he admitted to frequenting a Washington prostitution ring despite prostitution being illegal in the District. Vitter never served time—or was even arrested or made to stand trial, thanks to “prosecutorial discretion,” a practice which allows lawyers and law enforcement agencies to prioritize which criminal targets they want to spend their time pursuing.
Yet as a Senator, one of the bills that Vitter sponsored during the 112th Congress was the HALT Act, which would nullify President Obama’s power to exercise prosecutorial discretion. Under the HALT Act, the Obama administration would be unable to protect certain classes of non-criminal, non-priority immigrants from deportation, such as the DREAMers now safeguarded by deferred action. The Act conveniently would have expired January 21, 2013, meaning that Vitter sought to obstruct President Obama alone, while freeing up what Vitter hoped would soon be a different administration. His blatant hypocrisy even moved Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to call him out during a House hearing for “seeking to prevent the use of discretion to benefit others when one has enjoyed the benefit himself.”
In addition to the HALT Act, Vitter also supports amending the Constitution to end birthright citizenship. He also famously aired this campaign ad in 2010, which was widely slammed for its offensive caricature of immigrants.