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Republicans deceive voters about Jon Tester's immigration stance

Tester opposed a series of amendments that could have resulted in the furloughing of border patrol agents.

By Jesse Valentine - May 28, 2024
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Jon Tester

Republicans are lambasting Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester for supposedly voting against a bill that would crack down on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Their critiques, however, are misleading.

The hubbub concerns the Laken Riley Act, a Republican authored bill that would require the detention of any migrant who commits burglary or theft. The legislation is named for a 22-year old nursing student who was murdered by an undocumented immigrant in February 2024.

On May 9, Tester became the first Senate Democrat to back the Laken Riley Act. This triggered a barrage of attacks from Republicans who accused Tester of flip flopping. They claimed he previously voted against the bill and was only supporting it now to help his reelection effort.

“Jon Tester has already voted against the Laken Riley Act,” said Missouri Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt. “He’s already voted against deporting illegal immigrants who assault police officers.”

Schmitt’s claim omits crucial context. 

The Senate has not held a standalone vote on the Laken Riley Act. Republicans brought the bill to the floor on March 23 as one of several proposed amendments to a government spending package.

Democrats, including Tester, rejected the amendments en masse to stop a looming government shutdown from taking effect.

If the spending package had been delayed, thousands of federal employees, including border patrol agents, could have stopped receiving paychecks. Border patrol agents would have been required to keep working without pay.

Tester has stated he will support the Laken Riley Act only if it gets a standalone vote.

Tester is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate this year. His likely Republican opponent is Tim Sheehy, a wealthy business executive. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has endorsed Sheehy, also made misleading attacks on Tester.

“Jon Tester’s support for Joe Biden’s open borders agenda is hurting his reelection campaign, so he is flip-flopping,” said NRSC spokeswoman Maggie Abboud. “Montanans can’t trust Two-Faced Tester.” 

Tester’s campaign is pushing back against these characterizations.

“Claims from Mitch McConnell-backed groups that Senator Tester changed his position on the Laken Riley Act are patently false and another desperate attempt to politicize the border instead of fixing it,” a Tester spokesperson said in a statement. “He has stated his support for the bill from the moment it was introduced and is proud to be an official co-sponsor of this legislation that supports Montana law enforcement and ensures that individuals who enter our country and commit a crime are held accountable.”

The outcome of this race is expected to be crucial in deciding which party will control the U.S. Senate. An Emerson College poll from March showed a tight race with Tester at 44% and Sheehy at 42%.


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