House Judiciary Panel Chair Berates Dean Over 'Anti-Immigrant' Comments

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean Wednesday regarding comments the former Vermont governor made on NBC's "Today Show."

During an interview with Matt Lauer, Dean said, "(T)hey (Republicans) are attacking immigrants: Two Republican congressmen, Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Tancredo, have incredible anti-immigration legislation."

In the letter, Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) told Dean that he was "extremely disappointed to hear of your latest outrageous political assault."

"You accused me by name of 'attacking immigrants' and having 'incredible anti-immigrant legislation,' an apparent reference to REAL ID legislation that enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate as well as by the Bush Administration," Sensenbrenner wrote.

"By implication, the 42 House Democrats who voted for the REAL ID Act and Senate Democrats like Senator Byrd who proved invaluable in moving this antiterrorism legislation through the Senate are also guilty of 'attacking immigrants,'" he added.

Sensenbrenner noted that the REAL ID measure was introduced in response to the 9/11 Commission's recommendations regarding border security and "improving identity document standards."

"Are 9/11 Commission members also guilty of attacking immigrants?" he wrote. "Are the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Americans who want us to get some control of our porous borders also guilty of attacking immigrants?

"In recent days, your delusional outbursts have forced senior members of your own party to distance themselves from your comments. While I agree with your acknowledgment that you're 'not very dignified,' I sincerely hope you refrain from further personal attacks," the Republican senator added.

"These attacks are contrary to the passionate - but respectful - political debate the public deserves," Sensenbrenner concluded.

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