Anti-illegal immigration group attacks Pittenger

02/19/2014 6:20 PM

02/19/2014 7:31 PM

The head of a Raleigh-based immigration group Wednesday accused U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of supporting “amnesty,” and said he’s looking for a candidate to challenge the Charlotte Republican.

William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, said he’s added Pittenger to the list of 36 Republican congressmen his group opposes.

“ALIPAC is alerting the entire nation that … Pittenger has been exposed as one of the GOP members of Congress who is working behind the scenes with (House Speaker) John Boehner and (President) Barack Obama to pass ‘immigration reform’ amnesty for illegal immigrants,” Gheen said in a statement.

Pittenger spokesman Jamie Bowers said the Republican opposes amnesty.

“His position quite frankly seems to be very much in line with Mr. Gheen,” Bowers said.

The flap comes 10 days before the end of candidate filing on Feb. 28. It’s unclear whether any Republican will challenge Pittenger, a real estate investor who in 2012 spent $2.3 million of his own money in his campaign.

ALIPAC is the second group that has threatened Pittenger with a primary challenge. A group called Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC pledged in November to challenge him over his vote to end the government shutdown.

In North Carolina, Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers is the only other “GOP turncoat” on the group’s target list. Ellmers, from Dunn, faces a primary challenge.

Gheen said he bases his opposition to Pittenger in part on a post by a pro-immigration reform group called, which praised Pittenger’s stand on its Facebook page. And Gheen singled out an article last week by the Observer’s Washington bureau that said Pittenger, like other North Carolina Republican members, says he doesn’t support amnesty.

“I recognize that there are 11 million people here,” Pittenger was quoted as saying in the article. “They have to be accounted for. And there is economic value. But I think there ought to be a way to bring these people out to recognize they are here and give them a basis to come out, but it has to be a thoughtful approach.”

Bowers said Pittenger favors a “step-by-step” approach to immigration reform, starting with added border security. He opposes comprehensive immigration reform, preferring to take incremental steps.

“Immigration reform should not include amnesty,” he recently wrote constituents. “America is a nation of laws, and we function best when we apply those laws fairly and consistently. Those who entered our country illegally made the choice to break the law, and understood there would be consequences.”

Said Gheen: “Robert Pittenger is attempting to sell the ‘secure the borders first’ fraud to provide cover for his border destroying amnesty.”

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