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A screenshot from the Citizens for Sanity ad "Third World." A screenshot from the Citizens for Sanity ad "Third World."

A screenshot from the Citizens for Sanity ad "Third World."

Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe October 21, 2022

Ad misrepresents Senate Democrats’ full record on border security

If Your Time is short

  • The ad uses votes only from a budget reconciliation “vote-a-rama” on amendments as proof of Senate Democrats immigration stances.

  • Senate Democrats voted in favor of a spending bill that increased funding for Border Patrol hiring and resources to detain and deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally who have been convicted of crimes. 

  • Democrats’ vote against funding to keep an immigration public health policy in place did not keep border agents from releasing immigrants into the U.S. because of a lack of detention space.

An ad from a conservative nonprofit called Citizens for Sanity uses video footage of a person climbing over a border fence and of masses of people on foot to claim that Democrats support "open borders." 

The 30-second ad gives viewers the impression that the U.S. is being overrun by people illegally entering the country and that Democrats are not doing anything about it.

"Every single Senate Democrat voted against hiring more border agents. They voted against deporting felons. And they voted against ending catch and release," the ad’s narrator says as ominous music plays in the background.

PolitiFact decided to fact-check the ad’s claims about Democrats’ votes and a lax stance on border security. We found that the ad paints a misleading picture.

Inflation Reduction Act vote-a-rama votes

Citizens for Sanity told PolitiFact that its claims are supported by Democrats’ votes during the 2021 and 2022 budget reconciliation processes.

Budget reconciliation is a process used in the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of the 60 votes that would be needed if the opposition filibusters. This is how Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act in August.

During reconciliation, senators vote on a series of back-to-back amendments in a period known as vote-a-rama.

In the Inflation Reduction Act’s case, it gave the Republicans the chance to force votes on amendments that, if passed, could have derailed broad Democratic support for the bill. 

Many amendment votes fell along party lines. But focusing only on votes cast during this process doesn’t provide a full picture of senators’ stances on border security. 

Vote against hiring more border agents

During the "vote-a-rama," Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., proposed an amendment to prohibit the hiring of any additional IRS agents until Border Patrol employed an additional 18,000 agents. 

The Inflation Reduction Act included a provision to give the IRS about $80 billion over the next decade, allowing some of those funds to be used to hire staff. 

All Democrats voted against Scott’s amendment, and all Republicans supported it. 

Citizens for Sanity’s ad ignores that a few days before senators voted on Scott’s amendment, Arizona’s two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, co-sponsored a bill to increase Border Patrol staffing, raise agents’ wages and create a 1,500 agent reserve force. (There hasn’t been a vote on that bill.)

It also ignores that in March, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included $100 million "for Border Patrol hiring and contractors, retention and relocation incentives and contract support." All Senate Democrats voted in favor of the bill, while 31 Republicans voted against it. 

Vote against deporting felons

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., presented an amendment to provide funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain and deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally who have been convicted of crimes. 

Democrats also rejected this amendment.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on the Senate floor during the vote-a-rama argued that the omnibus spending bill already provided funding for ICE.

"Four months ago, we gave $8 billion to ICE for this purpose," Durbin said. "Thirty-one Republicans voted against funding this purpose. One of them was the Senator from Tennessee."

The omnibus spending bill appropriated $4 billion "for enforcement, detention, and removal operations."

Vote against ending ‘catch and release’

Republicans often use the term "catch and release" when immigration authorities stop immigrants at the border and then release them so they can await their court hearings outside of federal custody.

Under Republican and Democratic administrations, this practice generally happens because of a lack of detention space. Authorities say they do not release people who they believe pose a danger to others. A Supreme Court ruling has also said the government can’t indefinitely detain immigrants.

Citizens for Sanity told PolitiFact that Democratic senators voted against ending "catch and release" when they voted against measures related to Title 42.

Title 42 is a public health order that has been in place since the Trump administration. It was invoked at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to help mitigate COVID-19’s spread; it allows Border Patrol agents to immediately expel immigrants who arrive illegally at the southern border.

During the 2021 budget reconciliation process, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, proposed an amendment to establish a deficit-neutral fund to ensure the Department of Homeland Security expels immigrants under Title 42. Democrats rejected the bill, Republicans supported it.

In the 2022 reconciliation process, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., introduced an amendment to "provide additional funding for implementation of title 42." Democrats similarly voted against this amendment.

However, keeping Title 42 would not end "catch and release," as Citizens for Sanity claims. 

Under the public health policy, immigrants are immediately expelled and therefore are neither  detained nor released into the U.S. 

Also, immigration law is still being enforced at the border alongside Title 42. This means some immigrants reaching the border are detained, released into the U.S. or sent back to their home countries regardless of the public health policy. 

In April, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to delay the end of the implementation of Title 42. (There hasn’t been a vote on that bill, and Title 42 remains in place.)

Our ruling

Citizens for Sanity claimed that "every single Senate Democrat voted against hiring more border agents. They voted against deporting felons. And they voted against ending catch and release." 

Democrats voted against amendments related to those issues when Republicans introduced them during 2021 and 2022 budget reconciliations.

However, focusing only on those votes doesn’t provide a full picture of the senators’ record.

In March, all the Senate’s Democrats voted to support an omnibus spending bill that included funding to hire more Border Patrol agents and to detain and deport immigrants convicted of certain crimes. 

Also, Democrats’ vote against providing funding to keep an immigration-related public health policy in place did not invalidate border authorities’ ability to use immigration law to release immigrants into the U.S. while they await court proceedings.

The ad contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False. 

Our Sources

Citizens for Sanity, "Third World," Oct. 7, 2022

Email exchange, Citizens for Sanity, Oct. 18, 2022

Open Secrets, New ‘dark money’ group tied to former Trump officials launches provocative ads ahead of 2022 midterms, Sept. 15, 2022

PolitiFact, What you need to know about the budget reconciliation process, Feb. 8, 2021

CNN, Here’s what a ‘vote-a-rama’ is (and what it means for Democrats’ energy and health care bill), Aug. 4, 2022

The Washington Post, The ticking time bomb still threatening the big climate deal, Aug. 1, 2022

U.S. Senate, Roll Call Vote 297, Aug. 7, 2022

PolitiFact, Kevin McCarthy’s mostly false claim about an army of 87,000 IRS agents, Aug. 11, 2022

Kyrsten Sinema, Sinema, Portman introduce bipartisan bill boosting Border Patrol workforce, Aug. 4, 2022

U.S. Congress, S.4775 - Border Patrol Enhancement Act, Aug. 4, 2022

U.S. Congress, S.1358 - Bipartisan Border Solutions Act of 2021, April 22, 2021

Kyrsten Sinema, The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, accessed Oct. 19, 2022

U.S. Congress, H.R.2471 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, April 13, 2022

PolitiFact, In Arizona Senate debate, Kelly and Masters spar over immigration, abortion. We fact-checked them., Oct. 7, 2022

U.S. Senate, Roll Call Vote 322, Aug. 7, 2022

PolitiFact, Mark Kelly’s votes did not give benefits to immigrants in the country illegally, May 2, 2022

U.S. Senate, Roll Call Vote 351, Aug. 7, 2022

PolitiFact, Donald Trump wrongly blames Democrats for 'catch and release' immigration policy, May 11, 2018

PolitiFact, Title 42 is not ‘the last tool’ Border Patrol has to prevent illegal immigration, Aug. 31, 2022

U.S. Senate, Roll Call Vote 344, Aug. 11, 2021

U.S. Senate, Roll Call Vote 294, Aug. 7, 2022

DHS, DHS Announces New Migration Enforcement Process for Venezuelans, Oct. 12, 2022

PolitiFact, Fact-checking claim about Venezuela sending prisoners to the US southern border, Sept. 29, 2022

Congress, S.4036 - Public Health and Border Security Act of 2022, April 7, 2022

Congressional Research Fund, Reserve Funds in the Congressional Budget

Process: Frequently Asked Questions, Oct. 12, 2022

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