U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has been criticized this campaign season for voting in favor of a bill referred to by conservatives as “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.
But the two-term incumbent has defended his vote in favor of the legislation, and said that he’d in fact “voted to end amnesty” for undocumented workers.
Last summer, GOP primary candidate Joe Carr issued a press release that took Sen. Alexander to task on the issue. The Carr press release noted that all seven Republican members of the state’s U.S. House delegation have released statements in opposition to the so-called “amnesty” bill, which was “was written by Sen. Chuck Schumer, endorsed by Nancy Pelosi and backed by La Raza and the Chamber of Commerce.”
Alexander has also sparred over the issue with his Democratic opponent, Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball.
In mid-September, Ball, promoting himself as a moderate Democrat and seeking the support of Alexander’s critics from the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, accused the Maryville Republican of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The topic came up again when the two candidates met in their only joint appearance of the election season, at the Oct. 16 Tennessee Farm Bureau Candidates Forum. The Senator defended the legislation he voted for, which he said was initially recommended to him by the TN Farm Bureau.
Alexander also pointed out that while the legislation he supported included penalties for those here illegally and didn’t contain a pathway to citizenship, the policy that Ball voices support for on his campaign website has no penalties for immigrants coming into the country without federal government permission and includes such a pathway.
According to Ball’s website, he supports “common sense immigration reform” that would uphold border security and existing labor laws, as well as giving undocumented immigrants a “path to citizenship” that would “require them to pay taxes and be registered.”
Alexander said at the candidates’ forum earlier this month, “I voted to end amnesty,” which he accused Ball of supporting.
“The definition of amnesty is a path to citizenship, with no penalty,” Alexander said.
Ball later questioned Alexander’s credibility on any immigration issues, noting in an email to TNReport that the incumbent senator skipped a recent vote on a border funding.
“I’ve never gotten to vote for any legislation and he’s had 12 years. He didn’t even show up,” Ball said in an e-mail.
In late July, Senate Republicans, led by Alabama’s Jeff Sessions, voted to kill the border funding bill, which they said would not prevent Pres. Barack Obama from granting temporary amnesty and work permits for illegal immigrants. Although Alexander was not present for the vote, the bill was successfully defeated when Senate Democrats couldn’t muster enough votes waive a point of order raised by Sessions.