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Incumbent Senators Locked in Tight Battles

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12091948 (posted Sep. 19, 2012)"

Seven Senators are currently fighting off challengers to their seats in tightly contested races. These are the races that have the possibility to ensure that Democrats retain control of the Senate, or ensure a Republican takeover. Republicans will need to pick up four currently Democratic seats, while maintaining all of their Republican seats, in order to take over the Senate. Of the seven incumbent Senators on this list thought to be in most danger, two are Republican and five are Democrats.


Massachusetts: Scott Brown* (R) vs. Elizabeth Warren (D)
In 2010 Republican Scott Brown won the special election in Massachusetts to fill late Senator Kennedy's open Senate seat. Now that seat is back up for grabs-with Senator Brown vying to keep his seat and the creator of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Democrat Elizabeth Warren challenging him. The most recent polling finds Warren and Brown neck and neck and the citizens of Massachusetts should brace themselves for a barrage of campaign ads as the elections pull into the final stretch.

The candidates have faced off on immigration a number of times, including on Secure Communities and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Scott Brown campaign site
From his campaign site: "I recognize that our strength as a nation is built on the immigrant experience in America. However, we are also a nation of laws, and government should not adopt policies that encourage illegal immigration. I oppose amnesty. I believe we ought to strengthen our border enforcement and institute an employment verification system with penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants. It is wrong to provide driver's licenses and in-state tuition to illegal immigrants because it will act as a magnet in drawing more people here in violation of the law and it imposes new costs on taxpayers."

Scott Brown Guest Op-Ed: I Support Secure Communities (Lowell Sun)

Elizabeth Warren campaign site
From her campaign site: "The rich tapestry of our country came together through immigration. We are a unique country precisely because we embrace so many differences. Our diversity makes us stronger, more innovative, and more creative. My son-in-law and the father of my three grandchildren immigrated here as a young adult. His story and countless stories from millions of other families reach back for generations, creating our uniquely American story. We weave together in new ways and it helps keep us vital. We need common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. Any reform should have three components:

  • It must uphold existing laws, protecting our borders and enforcing our laws against recruiting, hiring, and exploiting undocumented workers.
  • It needs to be fair to all taxpayers and to legal immigrants. There should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but one that would require them to pay taxes and go to the back of the line.
  • It needs to help us retain talent trained at our world-class institutions and support job creation.

That kind of immigration reform would be true to the rule of law, to our tradition as a nation of immigrants, and to our need to invest in the future."

Elizabeth Warren Praises President Obama's Action for Young Immigrants

Nevada: Dean Heller* (R) vs. Shelley Berkley (D)
The Nevada race is shaping up to be one of the most brutal and negative in the country with Democrat Representative Shelley Berkley and incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller. Polls from the end of August showed Senator Heller with a slight lead over his opponent, but many are predicting that the population of eligible but unregistered Latinos could swing an election.

Dean Heller campaign site
From his campaign site: "Dean believes that we live in a nation of laws and that the immigration laws that are already on the books must be upheld. Dean also understands that America is a nation of immigrants and has greatly benefited from legal immigration, which is why he supports reforms that would enable a safe, orderly legal immigration process.

Businesses who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should be held accountable. Dean also believes border patrol must also have the resources necessary to end the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States and opposes amnesty for those who enter America illegally.

At the same time, our nation's immigration process is bureaucratic, expensive and time-consuming. Immigrants who wish to become citizens should not have to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer to receive an answer from the immigration bureaucracy. For this reason, Dean supports responsible, effective reforms that provide those who wish to remain in our country legally an opportunity to bring their talents and contributions to our great nation."

Heller says no to DREAM Act, favors immigration policy reform (Las Vegas Review Journal)

Shelley Berkley campaign site
From her campaign site: "Shelley's grandparents immigrated to the United States for the opportunity to improve their family's lives through hard work and education. Shelley feels strongly that those same opportunities should not be denied to hard-working, tax-paying families in Nevada.

Immigrants have always played an integral role in our economy and in building this nation. Shelley supports comprehensive immigration reform to secure our borders, make our immigration system stronger and provide these workers a way to earn legal status by learning English, finding a job, paying fines and back taxes, going to the back of the line and passing a criminal background check.

Shelley is also a strong supporter of the DREAM Act, which would give young people who were brought to this country by their parents through no fault of their own, stayed in school and kept out of trouble the opportunity to earn legal status by getting a college education or serving in the armed forces."

Missouri: Claire McCaskill* (D) vs. Todd Akin (R)
Many thought the Senate race in Missouri pitting incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill against Republican Representative Todd Akin was going to be a surefire Senate gain for Republicans. However, Rep. Akin's controversial statements in August regarding rape have pushed this race solidly into the toss up column.

Todd Akin campaign site
From Todd Akin's official congressional site: "Employment Verification: Under current law, employers are tasked with verifying the legal status of prospective employees before hiring. Historically, this process has been unreliable, as ordinary employers are often not in a good position to determine if the documents presented by the employee are valid. E-Verify is a voluntary internet based federal pilot program that began in 1997 to allow employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of new employees and the validity of their Social Security Numbers. While errors may occur, E-Verify is currently the best way for employers to check employment eligibility. In the third quarter of 2008, 3.5% of employees who were checked through E-Verify were not confirmed as eligible to work in the United States. Congressman Akin fought for reauthorization and funding of E-Verify as well as for improvements to the system that eliminate errors and help detect identity theft. He also supported legislation requiring federal government contractors and sub-contractors to use E-Verify, while the Democratic majority has been working to eliminate this effective system."

Todd Akin Op-Ed in the Kansas City Star, GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin: No benefits for illegal immigrants

Claire McCaskill campaign site
From Claire McCaskill's Senate site: "With more than 12 million illegal immigrants already residing within the U.S. and an additional 500,000 crossing our borders each year, it's clear our current immigration system is broken and the status quo is unacceptable. America is a nation founded by immigrants, but it's also a nation founded upon the rule of law, and Claire believes it is imperative we respect both of these traditions.

Claire supports legal immigration. However, she opposes measures that reward illegal immigrants for their unlawful behavior. That includes granting amnesty to illegal immigrants or allowing illegal immigrants to receive federal assistance.

Employer Enforcement: Since her candidacy for U.S. Senate, Claire has repeatedly stated her belief that enforcing penalties against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants is the key to curbing the problem of illegal immigration in this country. She believes the promise of employment and social services act as a magnet in attracting immigrants across our border. Claire believes that if U.S. employers were unwilling to hire illegal immigrants for fear of serving jail time themselves, then immigrants would be less likely to illegally cross our border. Any effort at immigration reform should include stronger employer sanctions and aggressive enforcement.

Throughout 2007 and 2008, Claire repeatedly fought to persuade the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Program to intensify its efforts to crack down on those who entice and employ undocumented workers. For a long period of time, ICE refused to even release numbers on how many employers had been prosecuted for hiring illegal immigrants. Finally, in 2009, the new administration at DHS responded to Claire's urging. In April 2009, DHS issued new guidelines and regulations that are increasing attention and resources on prosecuting employers who violate our nation's immigration laws."

"Fighting to Uphold American Laws": Senator Claire McCaskill: Fighting for secure, legal immigration

Montana: Jon Tester* (D) vs. Denny Rehberg (R)
This race for Montana's Senate seat has been eagerly anticipated by the Republican national party since the day in 2006 that Democratic Senator Jon Tester won with just a 3500 vote advantage. Senator Tester's challenger, current Republican Representative Denny Rehberg, has held the state's single house seat for twelve years. The race is neck and neck according to recent polls and in a state with only a million people outside groups will probably spend far more than either candidate.

Jon Tester campaign site
Senator Tester does not include immigration as an issue on either his Senate or campaign website; however, the Senator voted against the DREAM Act in 2007 and 2010.

Denny Rehberg campaign site
From his official Congressional site: "I am concerned about the potential harm illegal immigration poses to our economy and our security. I believe it's important to be clear that illegal immigration, not legal immigration, is the problem. From the time America was founded we've been a nation of immigrants. Unfortunately, there are almost 12 million people residing in the U.S. today that are doing so illegally, and every state is hurt by illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration undermines our economy. From education to healthcare to increased incarceration, illegal immigration costs the Federal Treasury $45 billion annually - costs that are subsidized by honest taxpayers in each and every state.

In a post 9/11 world, securing our nation has taken on new meaning. That's why I've voted to increase border security. I've also voted to allocate more resources, including some use of the military, to the border areas to attempt to stem the rate of illegal immigrants into the country. I've voted to build a fence on the southern border to assist local communities. In addition, I've voted to allow local law enforcement to have a role in protecting our country by ending the dangerous "catch and release" policies of the past.

I oppose granting amnesty to those who are here illegally. I oppose any action that rewards a violation of law with citizenship to our great nation. It's an insult to the millions of legal immigrants that work hard and play by the rules."

Florida: Bill Nelson* (D) vs. Connie Mack IV (R)
For more than a decade the state of Florida has captured the attention of both parties as critical to control of the federal government and this election year is proving to be no different. However, although current Democratic Senator Bill Nelson was once considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election, the most recent polls show that he has opened up a substantial lead against his opponent, Republican Connie Mack IV.

Bill Nelson campaign site
From his official Senate site: "Sen. Nelson supports tough, fair, practical immigration laws that require people who want to become citizens to obey our laws, learn English, and get in line for citizenship. He also supports the DREAM Act, which says no law should punish children because their parents brought them here. If a child of an immigrant has worked hard and graduated from high school, they should able to go into the military or attend college."

Senator Nelson Press Release: "Sen. Nelson demands Homeland Security and Immigration officials explain high-school honor student's deportation"

Connie Mack IV campaign site
From his official Congressional site: America has always been, and should always be, a beacon for those seeking freedom. At the same time, we are a nation of laws, and those who come to America need to do so legally. That's why I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants and why I support efforts to reduce and eliminate illegal immigration.

From a news interview on SB 1070: "But Mack said he decided to speak out about the Arizona law because he saw it as an affront to freedom. 'I believe deeply in the idea of freedom, freedom for all Americans,' he said. 'If you're going to say that the health care bill is destroying freedoms, then the idea that police officers in Arizona can use race as an objective to determine someone's status means Americans' freedoms are being trampled on.'"

Ohio: Sherrod Brown* (D) vs. Josh Mandel (R)
While Romney and Obama go head to head in November, in the state that may very well determine the Presidency, the Senate race is the one that is quickly taking over the political attention span of Ohioans. The election pits current Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown against up and comer 34 year old Republican Josh Mandel, the current state Treasurer. The race is turning out to be one of the costliest races in the country with over $25 million spent so far.

Sherrod Brown campaign site
From his campaign site: "Senator Sherrod Brown Supports The DREAM Act. Senator Brown voted in favor of the DREAM Act, which would allow children who were brought into the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own to be granted conditional non-immigrant status and allowed to stay if they have been admitted to a U.S. College or enlisted in the military, submitted a formal application and met other requirements. He also supports a path to citizenship for these children, who would be allowed to apply for permanent legal status after 10 years."

Josh Mandel campaign site

Michigan: Debbie Stabenow* (D) vs. Pete Hoekstra (R)
Incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow got a big boost from her Republican opponent, Pete Hoekstra after he aired a campaign ad last February featuring an Asian-American woman speaking in broken English, but the race is still potentially one that could swing either way. Most polls put Stabenow ahead of Hoekstra, but the gap has been closing. Hoekstra recently garnered the endorsement of Rep. Steve King from Iowa and seems to be appealing directly to his conservative base in his attempt to swing the state of Michigan to the Republican column.

Debbie Stabenow campaign site
From a news account of a forum on agriculture: "Alongside tax reform and energy policy, Stabenow listed immigration reform in her top three priorities for 2013. 'We need a legal guest worker program,' she said, adding that the issue lacked adequate support for inclusion into her 2012 farm bill. 'It puts farmers in a really bad spot. We need to give you the tools to have a legal workforce here.'"

Pete Hoekstra campaign site
From a news account of a forum on agriculture: "Hoekstra bemoaned the existing system's overly generous legal assistance for seasonal workers and its overly complex work eligibility verification hoops, saying 'The hassle of it makes it a huge burden on you conducting your business.' He reminded attendees that immigration reform will benefit other industries beyond agriculture, and that he himself is an immigrant, having moved here from the Netherlands at the age of 3 with his parents. 'We benefited from the open-door policy here in the U.S.,' Hoekstra said."

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