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MYTH vs. FACT: The Perils Of Peddling An “Amnesty Phone” Myth

Apr 17, 2013 | Comunicados de Prensa

MYTH: The immigration bill will give free cell phones to immigrants with work visas.

  • The Shark Tank Blog: “According to the newly filed bill, immigrants who are allowed to enter the United States under a work visa, will be ‘granted’ a taxpayer funded cellular phone.”  (Javier Manjarres, “Move Over ‘Obama Phone,’ Say ‘Hola!’ to the Marco Rubio Immigration Phone, AKA MarcoPhone,” The Shark Tank Blog, 4/17/13)
  • Michelle Malkin: “MT @THESHARKTANK1: Move Over “Obama Phone,” Say ‘Hola!’ to the @marcorubio  Immigration Phone  #marcophone” (Michelle Malkin, Twitter, 4/17/13) 
  • Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle: “The 844-page immigration reform bill the bipartisan ‘Gang of Eight” dropped in the dead of night contains a lucrative handout that would give taxpayer-funded free cell phones to some people who live or work near the U.S. border with Mexico.”  (Matthew Boyle, “Immigration Bill Contains ‘MarcoPhones,’” Breitbart News, 4/17/13)

FACT: In addition to enhancing technology and fencing at the border, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” includes a provision to give rural residents and business owners near the Mexican border access to cell service and phones so they can quickly report border violence to the police and the Department of Homeland Security. This provision was included in the “Border Security Enforcement Act of 2011”, in response to the case of Robert Krentz, an Arizona rancher who was murdered on his property and did not have the ability to communicate directly with law enforcement because of his rural location. Giving people living and working on the Mexican border the ability to communicate directly with law enforcement is important to securing our border.

Senator Marco Rubio corrected the record this morning during an interview with Laura Ingraham:

Ingraham: “Alright, so let’s look at a couple of the other provisions in here so we understand what’s going on. In section 1107, are you familiar with that section?”

Rubio: “Well, go ahead. I mean, I don’t have it in front of me. So I don’t know the provisions but go ahead.”

Ingraham: “That’s alright. Eligibility for grants, because in 844 pages, as you can imagine, there’s quite a lot of interesting nuggets in here. You actually can be eligible for a grant for a phone, it looks like. A two year grant program to receive a cellular phone. And 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.”

Ingraham: “I know it’s not for the illegal immigrants, but it’s an outlay of money, is it not?”

Rubio: “Well again, that’s part of a border security package. That all of which is paid for by the fees and fines we are charging as part of this program. That is actually a border security measure that we have adopted and it’s involved to help rural citizens who live along the border that have access to communication equipment so they can call police and they can report border violence. Because one of the complaints we got from the border region is they don’t have any way to communicate with police or border patrol in time if they see something happening on the border. So this is designed to help in that regard. It’s not some effort to provide phone service to anybody.”

Ingraham: “That’s okay, that’s not really something that bothers me. I’m not even sure why that’s even in here, but I guess I get your point.”

Rubio: “Well the reason why that’s there is because the people on the border tell us…”

Ingraham: “They don’t have cell phones?”

Rubio: “Some of those regions don’t have cell phone coverage. They’re mountainous regions; they’re remote regions in rural areas of the border. Some of the most desolate places in the country, that’s why people cross illegally there.”

Ingraham: “Right and I understand that. It just seems to be those people who are the de facto who are enforcing the border, with the cell phones, to me its seems like it’s difficult.”

Ingraham: “Marco Rubio, I think if people thought that you were going to be down at that border enforcing it, I think they wouldn’t be all that worried. They know that your intentions are where they are supposed to be. I think they’re worried about the people in the room with you. And the people who seem to be beaming today, they’re worried about them, not so much you. They’re worried about them.”

Rubio: “That’s why we have to be vigilant. I mean, this is only a starting point. This is going to be a long, open and extensive process. I keep hearing, you know, all these concerns about it being rushed. That’s not going to be the case. I mean, in fact, the Judiciary Committee won’t even begin to deal with this until next month.”

Ingraham: “Marco Rubio, we really appreciate it, I wish we had more time, thank you so much.”