President Barack Obama and Democrats' position on immigration reform is unwittingly putting out the welcome mat for terrorists belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to walk across the southern border, according to allegations made in a new series of Republican campaign ads.
New ads backing Republicans in key races in this November's midterm elections equate Democrats' position on immigration policy, namely support for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, with weakness on terrorism and national security.
Scott Brown, a former Massachusetts senator now running for a Senate seat in New Hampshire, released an ad Tuesday accusing his Democratic opponent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of being "confused about the nature of the threat" posed by ISIS.
"Radical Islamic terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country," Brown says in the ad. "I want to secure the border, keep out the people who would do us harm, and restore America's leadership in the world."
Brown, a retired Army National Guard colonel, is pictured in uniform in the 30-second spot.
In Georgia, Republican Senate nominee David Perdue is lobbing similar accusations at Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn.
"She’s for amnesty while terrorism experts say our border breakdown could provide an entry for groups like ISIS,” a narrator says ominously in an ad released last week.
Perdue appears in the ad, saying that he would secure the border, enforce existing laws and, "once and for all, forget amnesty.”
The GOP candidate even accused Nunn of funding organizations "linked to terrorists," a claim based on her tenure running the Points of Light Foundation. PolitiFact rated that claim "mostly false" and Neil Bush, son of President George H.W. Bush and chairman of Points of Light, called the claim "shameful."
The Republican tactic is being employed in House races, too. The National Republican Congressional Committee released an accusatory ad claiming that New York Rep. Dan Maffei (D) "puts us at risk" because of his votes on national security and immigration enforcement issues.
The new batch of ads play on those fears at a time when trust in the president's ability to deal with ISIS has plummeted. At the same time, polls show that more Americans are prioritizing tougher border security and enforcement over legalization for undocumented immigrants.
Administration officials insist there is no credible evidence of an imminent ISIS plot to enter the United States, or evidence of a plan to launch an attack here. Independent experts say it's unlikely ISIS would attempt to enter the U.S. via an illegal border crossing.
That hasn't stopped Republican fretting. The tactic isn't new. Republicans successfully campaigned on national security and terrorism issues during the George W. Bush era. As recently as 2012, presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Perry all warned of the threat of Islamic extremist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas crossing the border. And who could forget this Tom Tancredo ad from 2007?
While stoking fears about terrorists crossing the border may pay short-term dividends for Republicans, it could damage their long-term efforts to build credibility with and appeal to Latino voters who support more liberal immigration policies.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.