Huffpost Politics

Eric Cantor's Complicated Relationship With Immigration Reform

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) speaks to the media during a news conference on Capitol Hill, May 20. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) | Mark Wilson via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has, in recent weeks, highlighted his efforts to block comprehensive immigration reform as he looks to fend off a June 10 primary election challenge. But on Monday, a new mailer touting his tough stance on immigration cited a report that at least one of Cantor's staffers on Capitol Hill has disputed.

The mailer plays up Cantor's role in blocking the passage of the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill, which his campaign refers to as the "Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty." As evidence, it cites an Associated Press article last month about immigration activists "increasingly focusing their ire at one person: Eric Cantor, the House majority leader." An activist in the same story dubbed Cantor the "No. 1 guy standing between the American people and immigration reform" -- something his campaign seems to wear as a badge of honor.

But Rory Cooper, a spokesman for Cantor's congressional office, previously had taken issue with the same report and implied over Twitter that it was planted by Democratic staffers to make his boss look bad:

This isn't the first effort by Cantor's campaign to throw some red meat to the GOP base in the lead-up to his primary, where he faces economics professor Dave Brat. Last week, Cantor's campaign sent a mailer that also struck a harsh tone on immigration.

Back in Washington, Cantor's office has pushed back on the notion that he is against immigration reform. As examples, aides have cited his continued support for policies that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who enlist in the military, as well as legislation that would grant citizenship to kids brought to the country illegally.

Although Cantor is likely to win his primary, the need for his campaign to strike a more conservative tone underscores the ongoing tussle between establishment Republicans and tea party candidates. Brat has positioned himself to the right of Cantor on several issues, including immigration.

Update: June 3 -- Cooper confirmed in an email to The Huffington Post that Cantor's office disagreed with aspects of the AP story, but he declined to comment on its use in the campaign mailers.

"Our issue with the article was two-fold -- [firstly,] their reporting techniques which included originally listing political strategists as advocates which they updated," Cooper said. "Our second issue was the implication that the Leader's policy positions are guided by politics or beltway intrigue, which they are not."

This article has been updated to include comments from Rory Cooper.

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