Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been airing a new television commercial about immigration and her support for tougher enforcement on the international border. The ad, which is being broadcast statewide, also contrasts Feinstein’s position with her Republican challenger for the Senate seat, Rep. Michael Huffington (R-Santa Barbara).
It opens with a statement: “While Congressman Huffington voted against new border guards, Dianne Feinstein led the fight to stop illegal immigration.” A picture of presumably illegal immigrants streaming over the border appears on the screen while Feinstein’s voice is heard explaining that 3,000 illegal immigrants try to cross the border many nights. Feinstein adds that she has only been in the Senate a short time, but has worked hard to secure the border with more agents, fencing, lighting and other equipment. It closes with the senator saying to the camera: “I’m Dianne Feinstein and I’ve just begun to fight for California.”
The statement that Huffington voted against new border guards is based on the congressman’s opposition last month to a sweeping appropriations bill that included funding for 700 new Border Patrol guards. Huffington’s campaign has called the Feinstein attack a “shameless distortion” because he has voted four times to increase the border guard even though he opposed the recent appropriations bill, saying it also contained wasteful spending. Feinstein’s campaign contends, however, that if Huffington’s side had won the vote, the guards would not be added.
Some Latino officials have criticized the video of illegal immigrants running across the border, warning that it scapegoats immigrants and harms relations among ethnic groups. The complaints have been nowhere near the level of criticism aimed at Gov. Pete Wilson for a similar commercial about immigration. Feinstein’s campaign said its commercial was more sensitive because it was shot in color, not black-and-white, and the commentary was not as inflammatory.
The estimate that 3,000 illegal immigrants cross the border on many nights was provided to Feinstein by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, said Marco Ramirez, a spokesman for the federal agency.
The ad’s claim that Feinstein has worked hard on the issue refers to her outspoken role on the Judiciary Committee, which plays a major role on immigration legislation. Last summer, Feinstein unveiled a six-point plan that included a $1 border-crossing fee. Last month, she introduced a comprehensive bill that calls for another 2,100 border guards in the next three years. Huffington supported a plan in April that would have added 6,000 guards over five years.