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Immigration Reform Update: Alaska Republican Senate Candidate Defends Comparing Immigrants to Hispanic Gang Members

First Posted: Aug 11, 2014 02:58 PM EDT

The immigration crisis has become an issue for U.S. states thousands of miles away from the southern border. In Alaska, three Republicans vying for the state's GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate debated immigration.

Former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell commented on their refusal to sign a pledge set forth by fellow candidate Joe Miller, who has garnered support from the tea party. The pledge by Miller would reaffirm opposition to any efforts to grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants if any of the three GOP candidates were elected to the U.S. Senate.

Lt. Gov. Treadwell criticized Miller for distributing a mailer addressing the immigration crisis with "menacing" Hispanic gang members, according to The Associated Press.

"It's because it's the truth," Miller said, adding that the flier featuring Hispanic gang members is "real world stuff." He also countered that Sullivan's supporters favor amnesty for up to 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Miller previously ran for and won the state's GOP senate nomination in 2010 but lost to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, when she reentered the race as a write-in candidate.

According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), the Alaskan Republican primary is close, but Sullivan has a 6 point lead over Treadwell, 35 to 29. Miller is in third place with 20 percent.

PPP also noted Miller has a high unfavorable rating compared to his fellow candidates -- 47 percent -- and 38 percent leaning favorable. Treadwell and Sullivan's favorability ratings stood at 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively; Treadwell and Sullivan's unfavorable ratings were 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

While Alaska is nowhere near the southern U.S. border, the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families reported that a small number of undocumented immigrant children have been transported to the state. According to HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement, five undocumented minors have been released in Alaska to sponsors, who are typically a parent or relative of the minor, while the child's immigration case is processed.

While five undocumented minors were sent to Alaska, the number is small in comparison to other states such as California's 3,150, Florida's 3,181, New York's 3,347 and Texas' 4,280. In total, between Jan. 1 and July 7, HHS released 30,340 undocumented minors to a sponsor.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 57,525 undocumented immigrant children under the age of 18 and traveling without a parent or guardian were apprehended between Oct. 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014. For 2015, the White House said up to 150,000 undocumented children will enter the U.S.

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