I’m certain I won’t be the first to put this up, but I aim to be the best article on the subject.
Today I got the latest press release from the Andy Harris Congressional campaign:
“Gilchrest Misleads Voters on Illegal Immigration”
The full color franked mail Gilchrest’s congressional office sent out at taxpayer expense is misleading the public on Gilchrest’s record on illegal immigration. “The taxpayers are funding Gilchrest’s misleading statements concerning his record on illegal immigration,” said Chris Meekins, Political Director for the campaign.
The truth is Gilchrest supports AMNESTY for illegal immigrants (co-sponsor of H.R. 371, 2007). “Unlike the incumbent, I will never support any form of amnesty,” Harris added.
Gilchrest’s real record on illegal immigration:
H.R.1885 5/21/2001 Vote 127: Gilchrest voted to allow illegal immigrants who overstayed their visas to pay a $1,000 fine and stay in the U.S. while they completed their residency application. H. AMDT 655 7/8/2004 Vote 341: Gilchrest voted against an amendment that would have increased funding for enforcing current federal laws against sanctuary policies for illegal aliens. H. AMDT 745 9/9/2004 Voted (sic) 439: Gilchrest voted against the amendment that would have barred illegal immigrants working in the U.S. from receiving Social Security benefits. H.AMDT 138 5/17/2005 Vote 177: Gilchrest voted against the amendment that would have denied federal homeland security funding to state and local governments who refuse to share information with federal immigration authorities.
Not only is Gilchrest misleading the public about his record, but he is also using taxpayer dollars to do it. “Apparently Gilchrest has so little respect for taxpayer dollars, that he votes for billions of dollars in wasteful spending and then uses taxpayer dollars to fund campaign activities,” Meekins said.
“It is one thing to send a letter to a constituent who asks about a specific issue, it is a completely different thing to mislead them,” said Chris Meekins, Political Director for Harris for Congress.
Using taxpayer funded franked mail for his own political benefit is nothing new for the office of Wayne Gilchrest. In the first quarter of 2007, Gilchrest’s office was in the top 10% of all members of congress in his abuse of franked mail.
Personally, I think I was to blame for a lot of that “abuse” as previous posts show. I’ve gotten maybe a half-dozen letters from the Congressman this year pertaining to his incorrect stance on the Long War. That aside, I looked into each vote the press release alluded to.
The first vote (Vote 127, H.R. 1885 from 2001) was “On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass” and it passed 336-43. The bill in question was called the “Section 245(i) Extension Act” at the time of the vote, but was rolled into another bill later in 2002. As the THOMAS website notes:
H.Res. 365 incorporated the text of H.R. 3525, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, in H.R. 1885, originally the Section 245(i) Extension Act dealing with certain immigration petition filing deadlines. Subsequent action on border security returned to H.R. 3525. H.R. 3525 became Public Law 107-173 on 5/14/2002.
In other words, it’s part of the laws that aren’t being enforced now.
Second up is the vote on H. Admt. 655, which was part of the process of voting through H.R. 4754, “Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, and for other purposes.” In other words, a budget bill. Again quoting the THOMAS website:
Amendment sought to provide funding for the Department of Justice to enforce section 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 which forbids localities from preventing their police officers from reporting immigration information to the Federal Government. (This amendment was by Rep. Steve King of Iowa, and would have increased funding by $1 million.)
The amendment failed 278-139, Gilchrest in the majority with 86 other Republicans and 190 Democrats (plus the “independent” Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who is practically a Socialist.) In this one, Harris is exactly correct as Gilchrest helped to deny the added funding.
Next is a vote on amending another FY2005 budget bill, this one “Making appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, and for other purposes.” (Those “other purposes” always scare me.) The amendment in question was sponsored by Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, and was “An amendment to block payments of benefits under the proposed Social Security totalization agreement that was signed with Mexico.” Hayworth noted in arguing for the amendment (from the Congressional Record):
The principal problem with the agreement is that our Social Security Administration assumes that only 50,000, only 50,000, Mexican workers will apply for Social Security benefits. But with estimates of over 4 million Mexican workers here illegally, I think the number in fact will be significantly higher.
In this case, the amendment was shot down by a 225-178 vote. Gilchrest joined 60 other Republicans and 164 Democrats in voting to kill the idea. Once again, Harris can correctly say that Gilchrest voted directly to favor illegal immigrants.
The final vote in question was a FY2006 appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security. It was on an amendment sponsored by Congressman (and current Presidential candidate) Tom Tancredo, who stated in advocating the amendment (again from the Congressional Record):
Mr. Chairman, my amendment would prevent State and local governments who refuse to share information with Federal immigration authorities from being able to obtain Federal funds under this act. These so-called “sanctuary” policies are not only misguided and dangerous; they are also illegal.
Section 642(a) of the illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 already makes it illegal for State and local governments to prevent their police from interrupting the free exchange of information between State and local police and Federal immigration enforcement authorities. Nonetheless, many local governments adopt policies that explicitly prevent their police officers from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
When local governments refuse to share information with Federal immigration authorities, police departments often stop and/or arrest criminal aliens time and again, only to release them without ever having checked their immigration status. As a result, instead of being deported, these aliens move on to commit other crimes oftentimes.
On principle I don’t like seeing the hammer of denying federal funds being used against local and state governments if they don’t pass certain laws, so I’d be inclined to be against this amendment solely on that basis despite its bid to increase enforcement. I don’t think Gilchrest voted against that amendment on my particular principle though. It lost 258-165, Gilchrest joining 64 other Republicans, 192 Democrats, and that lone independent in voting “nay”.
So Harris has accurately portrayed Gilchrest as having some favor on illegal immigration, or at least doing his part to look the other way.
Now the question of franking. I’m not in possession of the “full color franked mail” Congressman Gilchrest’s office has sent out, but I did ask Chris Meekins for a .pdf copy. (Of course it’s 12 MB so it may not make it into my mailbox.) To be honest it may come to me tomorrow since I originally planned this post for then and told him that; instead I’ll do my Morgan State GOP debate wrapup tomorrow afternoon instead of late tonight – too many late nights recently.
Anyway, the idea of franking was to encourage the elected representatives of the people to keep in contact with the voters in their district. In my case, I get a lot of mail from the Congressman because he knows I’m interested in a number of subjects he votes on and he informs me of the reasons for his decisions. On the other hand, a previous Congressman in whose district I lived (Rep. Marcy Kaptur) truly abused the privilege, sending out several puff pieces a year featuring all of the pork she spread around the district. They generally had a voter survey in them too but obviously she ignored my input since she voted pretty much the straight liberal line.
Simply put, I don’t have a problem with the principle of franking, but perhaps a full-color piece may be abusing the idea a little bit.