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Miller links immigration, gun rights in inflammatory campaign mailing

Nathaniel Herz
Joe Miller campaign

A provocative new mailer from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller featuring images of tattooed, threatening-looking Hispanics and saying that incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich “wants them to vote” is factually inaccurate, a widely respected immigration attorney said Monday.

The mailer, widely distributed to Anchorage households over the weekend, ties the hot-button immigration issue to gun control by including a quote from Miller claiming “if 20 million illegals vote, you can kiss the Second Amendment goodbye.”

“Joe Miller is 100 percent pro gun, 100 percent against amnesty,” says the mailer, which features photos on the reverse side of Miller firing a handgun and teaching shooting to a boy and girl identified as his children.

But Margaret Stock, an Anchorage-based attorney with Cascadia Cross-Border Law, said Miller’s claim about Begich wanting undocumented immigrants to vote was false.

Under current immigration law, belonging to a gang is grounds for deportation, and tattoos like the ones depicted on Miller’s flier have been used as evidence of gang membership, Stock said.

“If you’re an unauthorized, immigrant gang member, you’re denied all immigration benefits, and you’re deported,” Stock said in a phone interview Monday.

Begich, along with Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, voted for a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June 2013, though the measure didn’t pass the House of Representatives.

But there was no provision in that bill that would have given any benefits to gang members, Stock said.

“They just get deported, as usual,” she said in a follow-up email.

She added that a pair of exceptions to deportation rules for gang members do exist. One is for those who could prove they would be tortured if they were deported, though people who qualified would not get a green card or voting rights, Stock said.

There’s also the S, or “Snitch,” visa for gang members who agree to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement, though only 200 per year are authorized, and Stock said that “hardly anyone” gets one.

She added that 20 million is at the upper range of estimates of the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. that she typically cites.

At a pair of debates Sunday and Monday, Miller insisted the mailer was accurate, recounting an interview that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, did with a Fox News reporter a few weeks ago.

“Children are being forced to cut other children’s fingers off. They’re being sexually abused, all at the hands of the gang members like the gang members that are portrayed on this card,” Miller said at Monday’s debate in Anchorage, citing Cruz’s interview. “Sometimes the truth is hard.”

Miller added that tying immigration to Second Amendment rights was also valid.

“There’s a clear correlation, and the clear correlation is this: If you end up granting amnesty to those who don’t value gun rights, who have not been raised in an environment where the Second Amendment is cherished -- is considered to be a God-given right -- the reality is over a generation or two, the likelihood is very strong that the Second Amendment will not be here,” Miller said.

He added in a subsequent interview that people who say gang members are deported are "lying."

"We have violent thugs coming across our border and doing violent things," he said.

A spokesman for Begich's campaign, Max Croes, said in an emailed statement that Miller was "taking cues from the (billionaire conservative) Koch brothers by spreading misinformation to avoid talking to Alaskans about Alaska issues."

"Senator Begich voted to double the number of border patrol agents, secure our border and require undocumented individuals to pay taxes and penalties before moving toward a path to citizenship," Croes said, citing elements of the comprehensive immigration reform bill.