Budd, angling for conservative NC voters in Senate race, calls for tighter immigration enforcement

U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, the North Carolina Republican U.S. Senate candidate, is seeking to make illegal immigration a central issue heading into the general election.

Posted Updated

Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
LEXINGTON, N.C. — U.S. Rep. Ted Budd is calling for tighter enforcement of immigration laws and withholding federal funding for law enforcement agencies that refuse to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—a stance aimed at conservative voters as the Republican campaigns for North Carolina’s up-for-grabs U.S. Senate seat.

Joined by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, local sheriffs and immigration officials at the Davidson County Sheriff's Office in Lexington on Wednesday, Budd urged voters to seriously consider immigration enforcement as they decide whether to support him or his Democratic opponent, Cheri Beasley, a former state Supreme Court chief justice.

“North Carolinians really support law enforcement and we need to have policies—whether it’s at the border or whether it’s here in our counties or at our state level—that support law enforcement and keep our communities safe,” Budd said at the news conference.

In recent weeks, Budd and Beasley have sought to claim the title of law-and-order candidate. Budd has touted his endorsement by retired state troopers. Beasley, meanwhile, has touted support from a number of sheriffs.

Immigration issues have also become important in North Carolina, with many conservatives blaming drug cartels and immigrants who enter the country illegally for exacerbating the state’s worsening opioid crisis and committing violent crimes.
He and Tillis sought to emphasize that view by highlighting a joint letter they signed calling on the Department of Homeland Security to look into the immigration status of two brothers charged with murder in the recent killing of Wake County Deputy Ned Byrd.
In federal court last week in Winston-Salem, Alder Alfonso Marin-Sotelo waived a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing on a charge of possessing a gun illegally while not being a U.S. resident.

“Based on public reporting, we have reason to believe that one or more of the Marin-Sotelo brothers may be in the country illegally,” Budd and Tillis wrote. “This raises significant questions about how they entered the country, why they were able to remain in the United States, and whether robust immigration enforcement would have apprehended them sooner and prevented the death of Deputy Byrd.”

Beasley, meanwhile, also considers immigration a top priority. She supports immigration reform that includes ways for undocumented immigrants living in the country to become citizens. She also says she supports reforms that reduce wait times for legal immigration, improve visa programs and improve the process for people seeking asylum, among other things.

After the news conference on Wednesday, Beasley’s campaign sought to paint Budd as a hypocrite. Kelci Hobson, a campaign spokeswoman for Beasley, tried to link Budd to Republican colleagues who have called for defunding the FBI after federal agents seized classified documents that had been kept at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

“Cheri knows that Washington has dropped the ball on immigration and reforms are needed that secure our borders and keep our country safe while improving the legal immigration process and keeping our promise to dreamers.” Hobson said in a statement, referring to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors and seek a pathway to permanent residency. “She opposes efforts by members of Congressman Budd's caucus to defund law enforcement groups like the FBI that do important work to stop drug and human trafficking at our border.”

Budd declined to field additional questions after the news conference. His campaign spokeswoman, Samantha Cotten, said Budd doesn’t support defunding the FBI. Cotten also criticized Beasley for campaigning alongside sheriffs who don’t work with federal immigration enforcement officers and for being included in a joint fundraising committee with Missouri U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, who has called for defunding the police.
At a Monday event in Durham, Beasley said she doesn’t support efforts by some Democrats to defund police departments. “I know that police officers need more funding,” she said.
When asked about the FBI’s seizure of documents in Trump’s possession during a Fox News appearance earlier this month, Budd said he’d focus on the remainder of his campaign but would like to see more information about the FBI’s handling of the case.

“I want full transparency there,” Budd told Fox News. “The FBI really needs to explain what they’re doing. The [Department of Justice] needs to explain what they’re doing and make sure that there’s due process and not some sort of legal favoritism, cherry-picking magistrates that are anti-Trumpers so that they can get the result that they want. We need transparency and we need fairness in this.”

Asked by reporters on Wednesday about Beasley’s efforts to position herself as the more pro-law enforcement candidate in the race, Budd replied: “They’re in a desperate place.”

Throughout his candidacy, Budd has made illegal immigration a central issue. In the primary, he appeared in an ad in front of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border with a gun tucked inside his pants. In the television ad, he described how he’d work to complete border wall construction and stop what he described as President Joe Biden’s “reckless open border policies.”

Since securing his party’s nomination, Budd has sought to portray Beasley as a likely rubber stamp for Biden’s legislative agenda and the candidate least likely to crack down on illegal immigration.

On Wednesday, Tillis appeared more interested than Budd in working with Democrats to strike a bipartisan deal to resolve immigration issues.

“Time is of the essence,” Tillis said. “We’ve got to stop future flows as quickly as possible and I hope that we can, in the remaining months of this session, seek bipartisan consensus.

“But even for somebody like me who’s been criticized for being willing to address the DACA issue and take a look at various guest worker programs, I am not at the table if you’re not prepared to address asylum reform and securing the border,” he said, referring to people who have entered the United States through the controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which many Republicans have opposed.

Asked what policies he realistically thinks he could get Biden to approve if he’s elected to the Senate—assuming Republicans retake control of the chamber—Budd emphasized the importance of keeping Biden more in check through congressional hearings.

“We get to say anything we want to say in our hearings [for] five minutes on topic or off topic,” Budd said. “But we don’t get to control the narrative. We do when we’re in the majority in the Senate and U.S. House, so we’ll be able to hold the administration accountable and expose these things that tend to get swept under the rug.”