In Gazette op-ed, Sen. Schultheis dispensed litany of falsehoods about immigration reform proposal

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In a guest op-ed published in The Gazette of Colorado Springs, state Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) spread numerous false, misleading, and dubious assertions about proposed immigration reform legislation. Among other things, Schultheis ignored recent polls to suggest most Americans oppose the measure, which he claimed offers "instant amnesty."

Attacking U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) as a " 'point man' for Sen. Ted Kennedy's amnesty package," state Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) in a June 16 guest op-ed piece in The Gazette of Colorado Springs repeated numerous dubious and false claims related to proposed immigration reform legislation. Schultheis ignored recent polls to baselessly assert that "citizens in Colorado and across the nation are becoming incensed with the continued push" for what he called "amnesty." He also repeatedly referred to Senate Amendment 1150 -- the immigration reform package Salazar backs -- as "amnesty," despite the fact that it would require illegal immigrants to pay fines and undergo a background check.

In his editorial (accessed through the newspaper's electronic edition), Schultheis referred to Senate legislation that had been introduced as Senate Bill 1348 and was being considered under an amendment that would substitute for the entire bill, Senate Amendment 1150. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) withdrew the entire bill from consideration on June 7, although reportedly it will be brought back for consideration before the end of the legislative session.

From Dave Schultheis' guest op-ed, "Salazar ignores voters on immigration issue," in the June 16 edition of The Gazette of Colorado Springs:

Judging from the large volume of e-mails I received last week, citizens in Colorado and across the nation are becoming incensed with the continued push for amnesty by President Bush and certain select senators in Washington. These self-appointed "immigration experts" refuse to listen to the citizens, who oppose amnesty no matter what pretty label is put on the package.

In Colorado, our own Sen. Ken Salazar has angered voters by becoming a "point man" for Sen. Ted Kennedy's amnesty package. Salazar has the gall to tell citizens that if we don't like it we should "come up with a better one!" Citizens have been suggesting a sensible alternative for years: secure the border and enforce the law!

When Salazar says that "our nation badly needs the reform," what he is really saying is that we need an amnesty program that virtually decimates our borders. In Salazar, we have an elected official who places the wishes of illegal aliens and their "immigrant rights" advocates above those of American citizens. Coloradans will not forget this rejection of the rule of law.

However, contrary to Schultheis' claim that citizens across the nation are becoming "incensed" with the continued push for what he referred to as "amnesty," a June 12 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found widespread support for an immigration plan similar to the one that Salazar supports. According to a June 13 Times article about the poll, "A strong majority of Americans -- including nearly two-thirds of Republicans -- favor allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens if they pay fines, learn English and meet other requirements." The article further reported, "That is a striking show of support for a primary element of an immigration overhaul bill that has stalled in the Senate amid conservative opposition. Only 23% of adults surveyed opposed allowing undocumented immigrants to gain legal status."

A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll released June 7 also found that 54 percent of Americans surveyed favored providing illegal immigrants with "amnesty" if "they pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs."

Similarly, The New York Times (accessed through the Nexis database) reported on May 25 that "there is broad support among Americans -- Democrats, Republicans and independents alike -- for the major provisions in the legislation, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll." According to the article:

Point by point, large majorities expressed support for measures in the legislation that has been under debate since Monday in the Senate.

The nationwide telephone poll did not ask respondents about the immigration bill itself, but there were questions about its most significant provisions. It was conducted May 18 to 23 with 1,125 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The bill, which is backed by President Bush and a bipartisan group of senators, would allow illegal immigrants who were in the United States before Jan. 1 of this year to obtain legal status by paying fines and passing background checks.

Two-thirds of those polled said illegal immigrants who had a good employment history and no criminal record should gain legal status as the bill proposes, which is by paying at least $5,000 in fines and fees and receiving a renewable four-year visa.

Many Republican lawmakers have rejected this plan, calling it amnesty that rewards immigrants who broke the law when they entered the United States. But the poll showed that differences are not great between Republicans and Democrats on this issue, with 66 percent of Republicans in the poll favoring the legalization proposal, as well as 72 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents.

By repeatedly referring to the legislation as "amnesty," Schultheis echoed a widespread and misleading conservative talking point:

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo got it right in his recent comments on the failed Senate amnesty bill: "It's a shame that Senator Salazar, President Bush and others seem to be so tone-deaf on this." Tancredo is derided by the mainstream media for his fierce opposition to amnesty and illegal immigration, but he alone had the courage to fight this battle while most politicians were asleep. Salazar refused to debate Tancredo on Face the Nation, which shows he is afraid to come out from behind his curtain of misleading rhetoric and debate the real issues.

President Bush is equally to blame for this embarrassing circus. He is attempting to strong-arm (or should I say bribe) reluctant Republican senators to vote for this travesty. Seven Republican senators voted last week to continue pandering to big business and their agriculture buddies, while Democrats openly salivate at the prospect of 10 million to 15 million new Democrat voters.

The real indication as to who actually best represents the views of the American people is to separate the Senate bill into six separate bills and vote on each proposal separately -- border enforcement, stronger workplace enforcement, new rules for green cards and "family reunification," the guest worker proposal, and finally, the "Z visa instant amnesty."

However, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, a May 18 White House press release titled "Myth/Fact: Ten Key Myths About the Border Security and Immigration Reform Agreement" stated that the proposal "is not amnesty":

1. MYTH: This is amnesty.

  • FACT: Amnesty is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. This proposal is not amnesty because illegal workers must acknowledge that they broke the law, pay a $1,000 fine, and undergo criminal background checks to obtain a Z visa granting temporary legal status.
  • FACT: To apply for a green card at a date years into the future, Z visa workers must wait in line behind those who applied lawfully, pay an additional $4,000 fine, complete accelerated English requirements, leave the U.S. and file their application in their home country, and demonstrate merit based on the skills and attributes they will bring to the United States.
  • FACT: Workers approved for Z visas will be given a temporary legal status, but they will not enjoy the full privileges of citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, such as welfare benefits and the ability to sponsor relatives abroad as immigrants.

Furthermore, Schultheis' characterization of the Z visa as "instant amnesty" for illegal immigrants ignored the multiple standards an immigrant must meet in order to qualify, including having to pay a fine for breaking the law and successfully completing a background check. As the Los Angeles Times reported on May 18, illegal immigrants who were in the United States before 2007 would immediately have "six months to a year to apply for probationary status." Such immigrants would be allowed to remain in the United States once the reform bill was enacted, and to apply for a Z visa, but could get that visa only after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary certified that "the border and workplace security requirements were in place." Schultheis also omitted the fact that paragraph "p" of Title VI in S.A. 1150 states that Z visas can be revoked by the DHS "at any time" if an immigrant is not fulfilling the Z visa requirements.

Colorado Media Matters has noted that Schultheis' previous actions and statements regarding immigration have provoked considerable controversy. On October 4, 2006, he sent an email to the Greeley Tribune "questioning the immigration status" of the victims of a fatal car accident Weld County, all of whom were U.S. citizens. The Rocky Mountain News reported on October 10 that Schultheis' "e-mail to the Greeley newspaper questioning the immigration status of the family of three children killed in a car accident has caused deep divisions in this northern Colorado farm community." According to the News, Schultheis asked whether Tania Bustillos, the 17-year-old driver, was "the child of parents in the U.S. illegally? Or was she here illegally?" He also complained, "Why is it that the investigative reports we read in the papers and see on TV do not point out the fact that these accidents and the resulting cost to taxpayers (hospitalization, etc.) are a direct result of our lax immigration policies and enforcement?"

On October 20, 2006, the News published an open letter from the Bustillos family in which they avowed their legal residency status as well as that of their daughter and deceased sons. The letter, which they had emailed to Schultheis October 18, also chastised him for bringing the family's healing process "to an abrupt halt" with his questions. The online political daily news site Colorado Confidential reported on November 25 that the Bustillos family had "asked for a formal apology from the lawmaker [Schultheis], which they never received."

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