Ohio Republican Senate candidate Bernie Moreno accused his primary opponents Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Sen. Matt Dolan of supporting amnesty during a fiery exchange on Saturday.
The three Republicans, who are vying to unseat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2024, participated in a candidate forum where they were pressed on border policy. After the candidates responded to whether they’d deport illegal immigrants residing in the country, Moreno accused Dolan and LaRose of endorsing amnesty.
“When I hear Republicans talk about immigration the same way Democrats do — listen, we’re not going to beat Democrats by being more like Democrats. When you conflate legal immigration in the same breath, same sentence, same conversation as illegal immigration, you’re playing into the hands of the Democrats and the left,” said Moreno. “The answer is you cannot have amnesty, that’s not a difficult conversation, but Republicans refuse to say it.”
“I didn’t refuse to say it,” LaRose interjected.
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The three Republican candidates were then asked if they’d be willing to round up millions of illegal immigrants who have been residing in the U.S. to deport them. “These are the guys that want to do that, I’m saying secure the border,” answered Dolan.
“False, I didn’t say that,” LaRose responded. “And it’s not realistic to take 20 million consumers out of the economy, to take 20 million workers out of the economy. What I said is that if you come here illegally, you will never get Unites States citizenship and you will never get government benefits.”
“So again, they’re for amnesty and I’m not,” said Moreno. “How is that amnesty?” asked LaRose.
“Because you can’t with one hand say, ‘there’s only one path to America, the legal path I took.’ You can’t say that and then on the other hand say, ‘but if you did, you ran out the clock, so I guess you’re okay,’” said Moreno.
Prior to the exchange, the three Republicans provided their stances on illegal immigration and amnesty.
“If somebody broke our law to get into our country, they cannot be rewarded by staying here. There’s no more amnesty, no more backdoor amnesty,” said Moreno. “In the 80s, we were sold this under Reagan, ‘hey, we’re going to provide amnesty to this certain group of people and everything would be fine.’ That is absolutely nothing that I would ever possibly support.”
Dolan accused Moreno of being “all talk,” and insisted Republicans must focus on securing the border. “We also have to recognize that legal immigration in our country — not only is a historical norm — but is a huge part of our economics,” said Dolan. “We have to have a meaningful discussion about who can stay, who can provide value to the United States of America, remain legal.”
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LaRose also called for securing the border first, followed by a “merit based immigration system.”
“It is not wise to reward lawlessness by giving people something, and so if you came during the chaos, the invasion of the Biden administration, yes, you will be deported. If you came here illegally, you will never be eligible for citizenship — never,” said LaRose. “But it’s also important to recognize that immigration, when done legally, is a net positive for our country.”
A spokesperson for LaRose pointed the Daily Caller News Foundation toward a 2016 New American Economy article from an interview with Moreno upon request for comment, where the campaign argues he supported amnesty.
“Moreno also believes that there should be a pathway to residency for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States, particularly those brought to the country as children,” the article reads. “‘We can’t throw out the people who came here as children. They don’t know anyone from their home countries,’ says Moreno, who’s the chairman of the board of Cleveland State University. ‘We need to help them come out of the shadows.’”
A spokesperson for Moreno pointed the DCNF toward a profile where the candidate addressed his previous position on how to handle illegals already in the country.
“I am dramatically…more informed today,” Moreno told Cleveland.com. “What I have realized over the last 40 years of immigration [policy] is that we bought into a lie.”
Dolan did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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