Even before the mammoth immigration-reform bill from the Senate's Gang of Eight dropped early Wednesday, the rumors, falsehoods and misrepresentations were flying.
And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's press shop is spending extra time knocking it all down with myth-vs-fact sheets, even though most of it is directed at his longtime supporters: conservatives/tea partiers/Republicans.
There's one myth-vs-fact statement on border security. There's another about the length of the bill (which is 844 pages). And there's our favorite one that just came out: The issue of a "Marco Phone" as the conservative Shark Tank blog wrote.
Rubio's office blasted out an email titled: 'MYTH vs. FACT: THE PERILS OF PEDDLING AN “AMNESTY PHONE” MYTH'
A Marco Phone. A Rubio Phone. An "Amnesty Phone."
So what if the phone-subsidy program was begun under Reagan and expanded under Bush. This is Obama Socialism! The story persisted (last Politifact here).
That brings us to the immigration bill, which says a person can get a phone grant if s/he "regularly resides or works in the Southwest Border region; is at greater risk of border violence due to the lack of cellular service at his or her residence or business and his or her proximity to the Southern border."
Viola! Or, perhaps, Mira!
The Shark Tank, a by-and-large sympathetic Rubio forum, riffed this morning: "You would think that the government agency where these immigrants initially applied for their guest worker visa, was already situated in an urban environment with adequate cell phone service, right? Something tells me that these quest workers will not be taking a short cut through the the ‘cell phone signal-less’desert to get to and from work."
Conservative Michelle Malkin tweeted it out. The conservative Breitbart website ran with it. Then Laura Ingraham asked Rubio about it on the radio this morning.
Ingraham: "You actually can be eligible for a grant for a phone... articles this morning, as you can imagine, are fairly amusing. ‘Move over Obama phone, this is the amnesty phone.’ What’s going on with that?”
Rubio: “That’s false. That’s not for the illegal immigrants. That’s for U.S. citizens and residents who live in the border region so that they can have access to calls. One of their complaints – that’s actually part of the Kyl border bill that we adopted. And what it does is it provides communication equipment to people who are living in the border region so they can report illegal crossings because many of them either don’t have phone service or don’t have cell phone service and they have no way of calling.”
But Shark Tank's Javier Manjarres counters: "according to the legislation that he helped write, those 'residing' along the border are not identified as being U.S. Citizens or even U.S. residents. Maybe Marco should have clarified this in the bill, perhaps inserting a start date to establish residency?"
Manjarres isn't the only one singled out by the Rubio shop.
Two names are eye-catching: Rubio's colleagues, Rand Paul and Jeff Sessions, Republicans of Kentucky and Alabama, respectively. Sessions is doing all he can to kill immigration reform. The former is tacking between positions on a pathway to citizenship (funny how that gets less attention than Rubio's supposed waffling). Their quotes were highlighted in the myth of the 1,000-plus-page bill:
Senator Jeff Sessions: “No member of Congress who believes in democratic procedure can acquiesce to the ramming through of a thousand-page bill … “ (Neil Munro, “Sessions Slams Leahy For Immigration Rush,” Daily Caller, 3/27/13)
Senator Rand Paul: “I’m for immigration reform, but we have 1,600 pages. We’re going to read the details and try to make it acceptable to conservatives.” (Russell Berman & Alexander Bolton, “Obama Hails Senate Immigration Proposal,” The Hill, 4/16/13)
The DC Political Industrial Complex is salivating over a Paul-Rubio 2016 showdown, and this is pure cane sugar.
By and large, the news media (including, alas, us) are highlighted for spreading the wrong info about the length of the bill, which is 844 pages. The difference between the media accounts cited and Rubio's colleagues: the news media says "reportedly" (that is, we didn't know). The senators stated it as fact.
The fact sheet itself has a bit of a myth because it says this is a "Cautionary Tale Of How Immigration Myths Don’t Pan Out." Technically, this is a myth about the length of a bill, not about the substance of immigration. Harping on a bill's length in an entire myth sheet is pretty weak sauce by itself, but it's part of a narrative Rubio's office is establishing.
And it needs to.
Some conservatives are saying the bill is being rammed through. Pay no attention to the fact that it's online for all to see (really, it's here: Download Immigrationbill), it's bipartisan, will be heard in committee publicly, voted on publicly there at a later date, then voted on in the Senate, then heard in the House where a rival but similar plan will get a full airing and then (assuming it gets that far) will be rectified betwen the two chambers and voted on by both chambers in full again.
"First, there is absolutely no truth to the idea that I will support any immigration legislation that is rushed through Congress in typical Washington fashion," he wrote to protesting tea partiers who claimed the immigration bill he supports would be rammed through Congress.
But the myths keep coming. And Rubio shows he's ready to call it all out.
Even with an amnesty phone.