- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow is under attack in Michigan for straddling the fence on the immigration bill, attempting to please both sides of an issue that has deeply divided her political base.

Mrs. Stabenow, who is seeking re-election to a second term this year, has come under fire from Republican officials and a major state newspaper for opposing key amendments that would crack down on the hiring of illegal aliens.

Both she and her fellow Democratic Sen. Carl Levin during last month’s Senate debate “voted in favor of illegality, in favor of border insecurity,” the Lansing State Journal editorialized last week.

Mrs. Stabenow vowed at the beginning of that debate “to vote against any immigration bill that puts Michigan jobs at risk,” and in the end she voted “no” on final passage. But now she is being criticized at home and by Republican campaign officials for helping to kill several amendments to the bill that proponents said would reduce illegal-immigrant employment.

“Does voting against requiring employers to verify illegal immigrants help workers?” the National Republican Senatorial Committee asked in a recent broadside against the senator.

The NRSC pointed out that she voted for an amendment offered by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, which said that “guest workers would not need an employer to attest forthcoming employment.” His amendment passed 56-43.

The NRSC said she also voted against an amendment that would limit the total number of aliens given green cards to 650,000 per year, including their spouses and children. She also voted to allow illegals to receive Social Security benefits, but against mandating that guest workers with expired visas must leave the country.

“Stabenow wants to have it both ways, but a simple look at her own immigration votes shows that what she says doesn’t match up with how she voted,” said NRSC spokesman Brian Walton.

In response to the Lansing State Journal attack, Mrs. Stabenow said that the editorial “grossly misrepresented my position on immigration reform,” though she did not address the amendment votes that have drawn criticism.

“I sponsored an amendment that would have stripped this guest-worker program from the final bill because it is unfair to Michigan workers, and I will continue to fight its inclusion in any final immigration-reform package,” she said in a letter published by the Journal.

While Mrs. Stabenow’s votes on the bill appeared contradictory to some, Michigan Democrats said she was striking a balancing act on the measure by casting votes that would appeal to her state’s Hispanics, but in the end voting against the entire bill, which much of her party’s blue-collar constituencies oppose.

“Some of her votes were cast to appeal to Hispanics and Latin Americans in her base and others to labor unions and big corporations that give her money. This is a balancing act to make all groups happy,” said Michigan Democratic pollster Ed Sarpolus of EPIC/MRA.

“She learned from the defeat of former Senator Spence Abraham in 2000 when labor ran all those FAIR campaign ads against him on immigration,” Mr. Sarpolus said.

Mr. Abraham, the Republican whom Mrs. Stabenow narrowly defeated, had helped to pass a major increase in H1-B immigration visas for high-tech workers. He then ran into a wave of opposition when the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) accused him of giving Michigan jobs to immigrants.

“It’s an issue that could be used in the fall campaign. It’s one of those issues you can’t win on, but that you can lose on,” Mr. Sarpolus said.

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