As the country prepares to head to the polls for midterms on Tuesday, some Republicans are predicting that if the GOP wins the control of the U.S. Senate, the party will send an immigration reform bill to President Barack Obama’s desk.
The theory contrasts sharply with some of the GOP’s messages in the lead up to the elections. Republicans in the House of Representatives had long opposed the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate last year, but following the Central American child migrant crisis this summer, many conservatives tacked even farther toward the right on the issue.
They aren’t alone. Many Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), have played up their opposition to “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.
But several Republicans, who have long pushed an enforcement-first agenda when it comes to immigration, have taken more extreme positions that often don’t mesh well with the facts. With 24 hours to go before the elections, let’s look back at some of the theories prominent Republicans have embraced this campaign cycle.
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security have repeatedly said there is no credible evidence that the Islamic State group is planning an attack on the United States through its Southern border. One Customs and Border Protection official said that, if the group were planning an attack, its members would be far more likely to simply board a commercial flight.
That hasn’t stopped conservatives like Dan Patrick, who is running for Texas lieutenant governor, from saying that the Islamic State group is threatening "to cross our border and kill Americans."
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) went so far as to say during an interview on Fox News last month that the Border Patrol had told him it caught 10 of the Islamic State group’s fighters crossing the border illegally in Texas.
DHS, the government agency that the Border Patrol belongs to, disputed the claim, saying in a press release: “The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground.”
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Cotton went even further in October, saying that the Islamic State group is working with Mexican drug cartels to carry out attacks on the United States.
“It’s not just an immigration problem,” Cotton said in an audio recording of a tele-town hall. “We now know that it’s also a security problem. Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico that have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade, into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless Southern border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.”
Again, DHS has said no evidence exists to suggest the Islamic State group is planning such an attack through the Southern border. Some security experts also say it’s unlikely drug cartels would work with terrorist groups because it draws additional scrutiny from the U.S. and Mexican governments without expanding their business.
It’s also not clear why this supposed Islamic State group-Mexican drug cartel alliance, if it existed, would choose to attack Arkansas of all places.
Cotton also ran an attack ad on his opponent Mark Pryor that ignored the most basic facts about security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The ad shows Pryor say in a televised interview, “We have a much more secure border today than we did 10 years ago,” followed by an ominous voiceover retorting, “Seriously, senator?”
Yes, seriously. Over the last 10 years, the U.S. government has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents on the U.S.-Mexico border, and boosted border enforcement spending to the point that it now soaks up more funds than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined.
President Obama has deported more immigrants than any president before him. The roughly 421,000 apprehensions for illegal crossings last year represent less than half of annual apprehensions recorded a decade before.
U.S. Senate hopeful in New Hampshire Scott Brown is one of several Republicans to push this idea.
"It's so critically important that we really use every tool, shut out every mechanism for them and that disease and other potential diseases to come into our country," Brown said last month in an interview with WGIR talk radio.
Health experts don’t agree that Ebola outbreak is likely to spread from Mexico, where the disease is not currently present.
"The incubation period is two to 21 days, so theoretically, an African could fly from an infected area, land in a Mexican airport, take a bus toward the border, hire a coyote to take him across and then ‘present’ with Ebola," Thomas Fekete, section chief for infectious diseases at the Temple University School of Medicine, told PolitiFact in July. "But this presupposes a suicidal person who also has the resources for this kind of travel."