Immigration reform critics are seizing on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments this week that seemed to downplay the number of illegal immigrants working construction jobs in Nevada, even though a recent study found that his home state had the largest percentage of undocumented workers in the country.
When a reporter from KLAS-TV in Las Vegas told Reid a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center report found 17 percent of the nation’s construction workers were undocumented, the Nevada Democrat replied: “That may be some place, but it’s not here in Nevada.”
Political opponents have tried to twist Reid’s words, saying he believes there are no illegal workers in Nevada. But Reid spokesman Jim Manley on Wednesday clarified his boss’ comments, saying the majority leader was simply disputing the reporter’s statistic and did not say the state has zero illegal workers.
In the interview, Reid was also asked why he blocked an amendment introduced last year by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that would have required all construction firms working on economic stimulus projects to use E-Verify, the federal online system that allows employers to check whether someone is eligible to work in the country.
“That’s the reason we need to do comprehensive immigration reform,” Reid said. “We cannot do it piecemeal.”
Manley said Reid supports E-Verify and has worked to ensure the program does not expire. But Reid believes the current system is flawed because it sometimes penalizes American workers and can be susceptible to identity fraud.
"Improving our employment verification system is only a partial solution, however, to the exploitation of illegal labor and the undercutting of American wages,” Manley said in a statement to POLITICO. “Our broken immigration system can be fixed only through comprehensive immigration reform.”
Facing a tough challenge this fall from tea party darling Sharron Angle, Reid has been touting the success of the Democrat-backed stimulus plan, saying it has created jobs and helped repair the nation’s battered economy.
But Reid’s remarks on immigration have provided ammunition for opponents, who have tried to paint him as out of touch with average Americans.
“When you consider that Harry Reid has been splitting his time lately between his Ritz-Carlton condo in Washington and high-dollar fundraisers with trial lawyers in Canada, it’s easy to understand why he honestly may not believe that there are illegal workers in Nevada.,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “But for those who live and work in the real world, and particularly for his constituents in Nevada, America’s broken borders and the lack of enforcement at construction sites is a very serious problem that is hurting American jobs.”
Stand With Arizona, a group backing the state’s tough new immigration law, uploaded the KLAS-TV interview on YouTube and posted a link on its website, standwitharizona.com. The site links to its Facebook page, which has more than 321,000 fans.
“Just when you thought the open borders crowd could not possibly be more out of touch with American workers, comes this gem,” the group posted on its website. “Sen. Maj. Leader Reid (D-NV), even when confronted with multiple sources of data, denies both that illegal aliens work on construction jobs in his state at ALL (they do), or that E-Verify is effective in weeding out illegals from jobs in the first place (it is). … As usual with his ilk, he repeats the phony mantra of ‘comprehensive reform’ again and again like a malfunctioning robot on Star Trek.”
According to the Pew report, “A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States,” Nevada had 170,000 illegal immigrants in its labor force in 2008, or 12.2 percent, more than twice the national rate of 5.4 percent. California was next with 1,850,000 illegal immigrants, representing 9.9 percent of its labor pool. Arizona had about 300,000, or 9.8 percent.
By SCOTT WONG
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/39716_Page2.html#ixzz0tm920VQF
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