Rep. Smucker says immigrants 'coming to harm us' during second 11th District debate
11th Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, left, and Democratic challenger Jess King, meet for a debate at Eastern York High School . York Dispatch
Republican incumbent Rep. Lloyd Smucker's stance on border security has been well-documented during his first two years in office, but he took his rhetoric a step further during the second and last 11th District debate.
The last showdown between Smucker and Democratic challenger Jess King before Election Day took place Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Eastern York High School. The debate was hosted by the York County Economic Alliance and WGAL-TV.
Smucker is leading in the polls, but King has taken an edge in fundraising efforts, according to the most recent wave of campaign finance reports.
Just like during the first debate at Millersville University earlier this month, Smucker criticized King for her "socialist" policies and desire for an "open border."
Immigrant comments: But when prompted about immigration reform Tuesday night, specifically about the Central American migrant caravans traveling north, he warned that such individuals "are coming to harm us."
"We know individuals want to harm us and want to enter our borders," Smucker said. "They intend to harm us, and this would be a great way for them to do that. Imagine what would follow."
The migrant caravans, he said, make building a border wall and reforming immigration asylum laws more sensible because the U.S. "is being taken advantage of."
The Republican compared the caravan to the "entire city of Columbia coming across the river to York County."
The comments drew mixed reactions, with some in the audience applauding and some seemingly taken aback and upset with the remarks.
In response, King said the country already has a secure border and that the idea of building a wall is "being used in the midterm elections to invoke fear and to divide us."
King's response: "Our ancestors were religious refugees in this community a couple hundred years ago," King said. "We have experienced this; we know who we are as a community, and playing into this fear is un-American."
The Democrat added that it's understandable that, given the poor living conditions in some Central American countries, some citizens would want to migrate in search of a safer environment — and the American people should embrace them.
Although Smucker didn't respond when first asked why he thinks immigrants are coming to harm us, he elaborated during his rebuttal to King's remarks.
"We do have individuals who want to harm us," Smucker said. "(U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is keeping back hundreds of people on a daily basis that want to harm us."
The incumbent added the U.S. has been successful in preventing "attacks on the magnitude of 9/11" largely because of the efforts of ICE and others who protect the border.
However, both candidates cited Lancaster County as one of the most diverse and welcoming counties for refugees in the country, with Smucker emphasizing he supports legal immigration because "we are a country of immigrants."
King, showing more sympathy to immigrants of all forms, said the country needs to create a "clean pathway to citizenship" as legislative fixes to immigration issues are "being held hostage to a political play."
Fact-checking: The remainder of the debate echoed what was seen previously in Millersville, with the candidates voicing their different platforms in regards to health care, gun control and campaign finance.
Smucker, as he has throughout the campaign, accused King of raising most of her money from out-of-state donors, claiming his money mostly comes from local constituents.
But the opposite is true.
Smucker used statistics from the government watchdog organization Open Secrets, which shows King raising 55.4 percent of her donations from other states and Smucker raising 46.9 percent.
But the Open Secrets statistics don't include money from political action committees, which serve as the majority of the Republican's donations.
When factoring in PAC money, Smucker has raised 70.7 percent of his donations from out-of-state entities, with King's out-of-state donations coming in at 54.3 percent.
The incumbent also lied when pressed by King about his vote to cut $537 billion out of Medicare and $4 billion from Social Security over the next decade to balance the budget.
Smucker, who sits on the House Budget Committee, said he never voted to approve such a plan, but records show he voted in June for the GOP's 2019 budget resolution, titled "A Brighter American Future," which contains such cuts.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.
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