This is a roundup of the five most important fact checks we did ahead of the 2018 primary and midterm elections.
William Flannigan and Thomas Hawthorne, Arizona Republic
THE MEDIA: Radio.
WHO SAID IT: Kelli Ward.
THE PARTY: Republican.
THE RACE: Senate Republican Primary.
THE TARGET: Rep. Martha McSally.
THE COMMENT: “What if I told you about… someone who voted for amnesty 11 times… sadly Martha McSally said and did all of this.”
THE FORUM: Radio ad released July 16, 2018,
WHAT WE’RE LOOKING AT: Did Rep. Martha McSally vote for amnesty 11 times, as her GOP primary opponent for the U.S. Senate, Kelli Ward, claimed in a radio ad (as well as in fliers and posts on Twitter)?
ANALYSIS: In an attempt to portray her opponent in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate as weak on immigration enforcement, Ward has accused McSally of voting in favor of amnesty 11 times during her three years in office.
A spokesman for Ward said the campaign defines a vote for amnesty as any bill that would “grant a legal status or some other type of reward to those who have come here illegally and absolve them from any future prosecution or consequence.”
That is a hard-line definition of amnesty, as some view it as granting legal status with no penalty (such as paying a fine).
All but one of McSally’s actions cited by Ward’s team had to do with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which provides temporary legal protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children.
The one bill that doesn’t was the 2018 Omnibus bill, which funded the government for the year. It was criticized by anti-immigration advocates because it increased the number of immigration visas, but it had no language that provided a permanent legal status to any group of undocumented immigrants.
The campaign said they selected most of those bills from a report card of lawmakers’ votes created by Numbers USA, a group that describes itself as an “immigration-reduction organization.”
In the section of the report card that looked at efforts to “reduce amnesty enticements,” only 10 actions taken by McSally were included. Of those, eight increased “amnesty enticements,” while one did not, according to Numbers USA.
The remaining bill was a measure McSally originally co-sponsored but that she removed her name from in May in support of a tougher DACA fix. It would have provided a path to permanent legal status.
Angela Banks, a law professor at Arizona State University who specializes in immigration and citizenship law, said that by the campaign’s definition, for any legislation to be considered an amnesty bill it would have to provide some form of permanent legal status.
“The clause at the end ‘and absolve them from any future prosecution or consequence’ has only ever been provided with the grant of legal status,” she said.
DACA, “does not absolve its recipients ‘from any future prosecution or consequence.’ It only protects recipients from deportation for a specified period of time,” she said.
Zachary Henry, press secretary for the Ward campaign disagreed, arguing that any extension of DACA is just a “softer form of amnesty.”
One bill included by the Ward campaign, but is seen as an overall positive by Numbers USA, would have extended DACA without providing a path to permanent legal status, in exchange for increased border security and funding for a border wall.
Of the eight remaining actions, only two provide a pathway to permanent legal status.
One of those is the ENLIST act which would authorize the military to enlist DACA eligible immigrants and grant them a permanent legal status, contingent on an honorable discharge.
The bill has not received a vote but McSally is a co-sponsor.
Torunn Sinclair, the McSally campaign’s communication director, said giving DACA recipients a chance to gain legal status via military service does not amount to amnesty.
The second bill offered permanent status for DACA recipients in exchange for greater border-security funding, including a border wall.
It was supported by both President Donald Trump and GOP leadership in the House, which explains McSally’s “yes” vote, said Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA. It failed in the House of Representatives.
The six remaining bills dealt with DACA, but none would grant permanent legal status. They ranged from rules about processing requests from future applicants to ensuring the ability of DACA-eligible immigrants to enlist in the military, but without a direct pathway to permanent legal residency.
Beck said that while Ward may have been “imprecise” with the exact number of votes, “overall there’s no question that Congresswoman McSally has been a pretty significant supporter of amnesty in the past.”
BOTTOM LINE: McSally does have a record of supporting protections for DACA recipients — a record she has attempted to downplay and hide during the Senate primary with actions like removing her name from a bipartisan bill, and taking down a video from her website where she asked for protections for DACA recipients.
But that does not mean she supports amnesty or voted for it 11 times.
Of the 11 votes that the Ward campaign claim that McSally took, 10 were actions — not necessarily votes — that were in someway related to DACA. The other is McSally’s ‘yes’ vote on the bill to fund the government, which did not address DACA or amnesty.
Only three would provide a pathway to permanent legal status, and only for DACA recipients. McSally has voted ‘yes’ on one of those, is a co-sponsor of another, and pulled her sponsorship from the third.
THE FINDING: No stars: False.
SOURCES: Numbers USA, report card for Rep. Martha McSally, updated July 26, 2018; H.R. 4760, Securing America’s Future Act of 2018; H.R.6136, Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018; H.R.1625 – Consolidated Appropriations Act,(Omnibus bill) 2018; National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, committee markup; H.R.240, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015; H.R.1735, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016; H.R.1468, Recognizing America’s Children Act, 2018; H.R. 60, ENLIST Act, 2018; Congress: Rep. McSally shifts support to stricter immigration bill, published in The Arizona Republic, May 11, 2018; McSally’s office removes video supporting ‘compassionate’ fix for DACA, published in The Arizona Republic, June 12, 2018; Trump says immigrants who join the military could become legal residents, an idea backed by this California Republican published by the Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2016; Phone call with Zachary Henry, press secretary for the Kelli Ward Campaign, July 17, 2018; Phone interview with Angela Banks professor of law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, July 17, 2018; Phone interview with Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA July 18, 2018; Email with Torunn Sinclair, communications director for the Rep. Martha McSally campaign, July 25, 2018.
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