The federal government’s reluctance to secure the nation’s southern border and Arizona’s subsequent attempts to fill this vacuum has reignited the perennial debate over illegal immigration. Understandably, the immigration issue is trickling over into congressional races across the nation, including Virginia’s 9th District, currently represented by Democrat Rep. Rick Boucher. Rep. Boucher, a 14-term incumbent, is facing both a stiff anti-Democrat headwind and a strong challenge from the majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, Morgan Griffith. Although the most recent public poll shows Rep. Boucher leading the race handily, his lead is significantly smaller than his usual margins of victory. In a district that is already economically challenged and with the specter of Cap-and-Trade hovering over the future of the district’s dominant employer (the coal industry) in question, illegal immigration, and its effects on available jobs, could become the decisive issue in determining whether the GOP can flip Virginia’s western-most congressional district.
The opening salvo on this issue stems over whether Rep. Boucher truly supports the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Rep. Boucher recently told a reporter for the Bristol Herald-Courier that he supports the border fence: “I voted for that fence and I voted to fund the fence…. I have supported building the fence. … At the same time I’ve been very vocal about the need for the federal government not to interfere with the enforcement of the Arizona immigration law.”
However in a press release to its supporters, the Griffith campaign highlights two procedural votes on H.R. 2638, the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2007, which appear to cast some doubt on Rep. Boucher’s purported support for the border fence. Funding for the fence was provided in the main body of the legislation, but Rep. Boucher voted no on an amendment that would transfer an additional $89.1 million to the “border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology account.” (The amendment passed anyway by a wide-margin.) Later, on a motion to recommit that instructed the Appropriations Committee to add an amendment to the bill that would “…provide the funds necessary for the construction of at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barrier, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors pursuant to section 102(b)(1) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1986 and make adjustments in such other accounts in the bill as may be necessary to comply with the Subcommittee’s 302(b) allocation,” Rep. Boucher also voted no. (This motion failed narrowly.)
Rep. Boucher argues that these votes were not actually votes against funding the border fence (Rep. Boucher voted yes on the final version of H.R. 2638, as amended to include the $89.1 million transfer), but Del. Griffith retorts that these procedural votes, just like Boucher’s vote for and leadership in drafting the detrimental Cap-and-Trade legislation, was just another example of Rep. Boucher’s willingness to put the desires of the national Democratic Party above the interests of his constituents. “People can look at the votes for themselves. …Rick Boucher supports the fence like he supports the coal industry: we don’t have a fence and we won’t have a coal industry if Rick Boucher stays in Washington. Any Congressman who votes with President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi 96% of the time is not voting with southwest Virginia.”
Del. Griffith’s campaign website also has list of other dubious votes cast by Rep. Boucher on illegal immigration-related issues.