WASHINGTON – As anti-immigration fervor and security fears course through the Republican presidential primary – and the response to the Paris terrorist attacks -- Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman has launched a video highlighting his wife's arrival in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant.
"We as a society take a step backwards if we do anything but embrace the people that are here and create effective laws and paths to citizenship for people coming into our country," Fetterman says in the video, posted as a clear retort to the rhetoric in the GOP presidential race and last week's bipartisan House vote to slow the arrival of Syrian refugees.
"Politicians like U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Ted Cruz are anti-immigrant," reads the opening shot of the roughly one-minute video. Toomey, Pennsylvania's incumbent Republican, whom Democrats hope to beat next year, joined the calls last week to halt the intake of Syrian refugees, saying U.S. security must take priority.
UPDATE: A Toomey campaign spokesman said Tuesday that the senator supports allowing in refugees who "we know are not ISIS infiltrators. The problem is that we can't know that with most Syrians, which is why we must suspend the program."
In the video, the latest in a series of striking vignettes that lay out Fetterman's positions, the Braddock mayor says "immigration is what made this country great and immigration is what's continuing to help this country grow."
His wife, Gisele, he says, arrived in the U.S. illegally from Brazil at age nine – "looking for a better life." He was once asked how he felt about her family breaking the law. "I'm so grateful that they did, because if they didn't have the courage to take that step I would have the three beautiful children that I have today," Fetterman says.
The mayor of a hard-hit borough just outside Pittsburgh, Fetterman is a wild card in the Senate race, hoping to use his unusual story to fuel an outsider run.
The two other Democrats in the race, Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty, have also supported the idea of continuing to accept Syrian refugees into the U.S.
Sestak has released his own series of videos also hoping to highlight personal stories. His first batch told of U.S. veterans he helped when he was a member of Congress. The latest, on Tuesday, features a mother he helped when her son contracted Lyme disease.