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Outside Group Targets Begich on Immigration

The group Numbers USA aims to “educate voters” in states with senators who could play a pivotal role in the coming immigration debate.

The group started airing an ad throughout Alaska this week that asks actors who “thinks Senator Mark Begich’s plan to bring in foreign workers to take American jobs is a good idea?”

Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, said Senator Begich has been tight-lipped on immigration since arriving in the Senate four years ago, except on J-1 visas.

J-1 visas allow foreign students to work in Alaska for the summer with student status. Fish processors contend the industry needs foreign workers who are willing to work the hours and for the pay.

Beck said he doubts the need for J-1 visas.

“It is a sell out if he trades his vote and votes for the entire amnesty and this huge increase in foreign workers. Anytime you increase the number of foreign workers, you drive down the value of wages for the American workers,” he said Thursday afternoon.

A group of eight senators is crafting a comprehensive immigration reform package. It would create a path to citizenship for the 11 million or so immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, so long as they paid fines and back taxes.

Beck dismissed that as amnesty, but Senator Begich called it a step in the right direction.

He said the new ad is full of lies.

“I don’t support amnesty, and I don’t support giving Social Security to illegal immigrants,” he said in a Thursday phone interview. “So I don’t know what they’re talking about.”

But he did agree with Beck that his vote for an overall package depends on whether J-1 visa reform is included.

“We may want to get this done right, and it may hinge on that,” he said.

The Senate reconvenes from a two week recess on Monday. The group could introduce the legislation as early as next week. Most expect debate to begin in earnest in May.

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