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Hey Joni Ernst: According to Sen. Grassley, Senate Bill Isn't "Amnesty"

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In Iowa, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) and State Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) squared off in their first debate for a key Senate seat yesterday, with Braley calling Ernst out for Congressional Republicans’ refusal to pass an immigration reform bill in the House.

Ernst’s response?  “I don’t support amnesty,” she said according to the Washington Times, and added that she is opposed to President Obama taking executive action on “amnesty.”

Watch video of the segment below — the full debate is here and the immigration segment begins at 29:45:

Iowa’s senior US Senator, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), however, would certainly dispute Ernst’s answer.  Last summer, a constituent asked Grassley — no friend to immigration reform — point blank as to whether the Senate bill constitutes “amnesty.”  He said no, responding, “I don’t use that word.  [The Senate bill] is a little bit different than what we did in 1986.  I would call the immigration bill in 1986 amnesty.”

Sounds like Joni Ernst disagrees. She reverted to that favorite buzzword of the hard-core anti-immigrant crowd, “amnesty.” That puts Ernst way out of step with most Iowans. A recent poll found that 90% of Iowans, including 60% of Republicans, support comprehensive immigration reform.  And the irony of Joni Ernst’s anti-immigrant politics is that Red Oak lost 7% of it’s population between 2000-2010 — meanwhile the percent of Latinos has doubled. Latinos are up from 2.15% in 2000 to 4.2% in 2010.

Braley, for his part, reminded Ernst that “Sen. Rubio and Sen. McCain did not vote for amnesty” and that “amnesty is when you break the law and there are no consequences…[this bill] has real serious tough consequences including an admission that you broke the law.” Ernst, in yesterday’s debate, did say that she supports recognizing undocumented immigrants in some way, noting that “I do support bringing a lot of these illegal immigrants forward.”  But she had no specifics on how that path forward would differ at all from the Senate bill, which requires individuals to pay thousands of dollars in fines, undergo a background check, demonstrate English proficiency, and wait 15 years in line.