U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin took aim at each of his four Democratic challengers Friday for their support of Maine’s immigrants.

In a post on Facebook, the two-term 2nd District Republican from Maine said that “illegal immigration is still illegal. We are a country of immigrants, but we are also a Nation of Laws. People entering America must do so legally, otherwise they are not immigrants, they are illegals.”

“This common-sense position is not shared by a single one of my four opponents,” Poliquin said. “They are more concerned with appeasing the extreme far left and having the support of Nancy Pelosi,” the California Democrat who serves as the House minority leader, he said.

It isn’t clear what caused the congressman to lash out, but it drew a sharp response from some of those targeted. They each said they favor legal immigration.

“Sowing division and hatred is not an American value,” said Monroe builder Jonathan Fulford, one of the four Democrats competing for his party’s backing in the June 12 primary that will decide which of them takes on Poliquin in the November general election.

Another candidate, nonprofit executive Lucas St. Clair, said Poliquin ought to be explaining the “massive spending bill” Congress just approved instead of “using social media to try to divide people.”

State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, called the Facebook post “nothing more than tired, poll-tested talking points from Bruce ‘Cheap Labor Lobby’ Poliquin.”

Golden said Poliquin “needs to stop playing political games by intentionally blurring the lines between legal and illegal immigration, while at the same time allowing corporations to take advantage of cheap, foreign labor” through the H-2B visas that bring in cheap labor from other countries to fill jobs Mainers could do.

One other candidate in the race also weighed in, independent Tiffany Bond, who has a strong online following.

She told Poliquin on Twitter that “it’s not the 4 Democrat men you should worry about. Your worry should be with the woman you have apparently decided not to count as an opponent, who has the capacity to legislate and represent Maine with superior skill. Signed, That woman.”

The four Democrats have often expressed support for “new Mainers” and for immigrants generally, but they haven’t differed sharply from Poliquin on undocumented immigrants.

Poliquin said a few months ago that “our broken immigration system” needs reform and that Congress “must pass legislation that protects” the so-called Dreamers — people who came to America as children and grew up in the United States.

The lawmaker said the “well-meaning, law-abiding individuals” among the Dreamers should have “the opportunity to apply for a more secured status in our country as soon as possible.”

Poliquin did not respond to a request to clarify what the Democrats had said or done to draw his criticism Friday, but the Maine Republican Party weighed in.

Jason Savage, the executive director of the Maine GOP said Poliquin is “correct on all counts.”

He said Democrats are “are more concerned about silencing Bruce Poliquin on immigration issues” than they are about dealing with the issue.

Savage said it is true the U.S. is a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. It is also true that “illegal immigration is illegal,” he said.

The other thing that’s true, Savage said, is that none of Poliquin’s opponents “will take a tough stand on illegal immigration because they’re afraid to lose the extreme left-wing vote.”

Garrett Murch, the state GOP’s communications director, said the Democrats’ response to Poliquin is “a classic attempt by the left to redefine language to try and control a debate or advance a narrative.”

“If supporting enforcement of current law becomes understood as pandering, the radical leftists win — but I know responsible journalists won’t let them get away with this obvious and shameful tactic of language manipulation. Words are words and facts are facts, despite however hard leftists try to manipulate them to their advantage,” Murch said.

Mainers won’t fall for it, he said.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett countered, “I guess Bruce wants to take the billions of dollars he voted to cut from Mainers’ Medicaid and work hand-in-hand with his friends” such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump “to put it toward a $70 billion border wall that can be scaled by a $25 ladder.” 

“Imagine the good that could be done in Maine with that money,” he said.

Bartlett said Poliquin “is always so interested in talking about Nancy Pelosi and immigration because he can’t defend his votes that have hurt Mainers.”

Fulford, St. Clair, Golden and Islesboro bookstore owner Craig Olson, who declined to comment, are facing each other in the primary. The general election is Nov. 6.

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Facebook post of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin

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