Fact-Check: Challenger’s Account of Lipinski’s Immigration Record Falls Short
Critics of U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the last conservative Democrats in the House, often argue he is out of step with what they view as his constituents' more progressive values.
The eight-term congressman’s record on hot-button issues including health care, abortion and immigration has become a central focus in the March 17 primary challenge for the 3rd District seat he now holds.
One attack on Lipinski’s immigration record caught our attention because it suggests the congressman is aligned with some of Republican President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies.
A graphic tweeted by challenger Rush Darwish, who runs a multimedia production company in Chicago, said Lipinski “voted against the DREAM Act, supports separating families and banning Muslims.”
The 3rd District is the state’s most Arab American district, according to experts. And Darwish, who is Palestinian American, has said Lipinski has ignored the interests of immigrant communities there.
Lipinski’s 2010 vote against legislation that would have protected “Dreamers” — the nickname for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children — from deportation, has been widely reported. But we didn’t know what Darwish was referencing when he claimed Lipinski backed “separating families and banning Muslims.” So we decided to find out.
Lipinski voted against DREAM Act, now supports Dreamers
There’s a lot to unpack in Darwish’s claim, so we’ll start with its clearest contention.
First introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act not only would have prevented the deportation of Dreamers, but also would have provided a path to citizenship.
Since then, however, Lipinski has taken steps to protect the beneficiaries of a similar program instituted by former President Barack Obama and has more recently backed new legislation that resembles the bill he voted against.
Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, offered Dreamers temporary protection from deportation but did not include a path to citizenship. In 2017, Trump moved to end DACA. His administration is still required to process renewal applications for immigrants who have been granted DACA and want to renew that protection, but the government is not allowing new applicants to apply.
And in 2019, he co-sponsored and helped pass a House bill to protect DACA recipients. The legislation, which is unlikely to secure Senate approval, would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers and other immigrants with temporary legal status.
In April 2018, Trump’s Justice Department introduced a “zero tolerance” policy that called for prosecuting all adults referred by immigration authorities for violating immigration laws. As a consequence of that policy, children were separated from their parents as they arrived at the border.
Lipinski criticized those separations at the time and signed on to several letters questioning the government’s actions. Last year, he also co-sponsored legislation aimed at limiting family separations near the border.
But a Darwish spokesperson told us his candidate’s tweet wasn’t talking about those separations.
“We are referring to Congressman Lipinski's vote against the DREAM Act,” spokesperson Andrew Patinkin wrote in an email. “Lipinski effectively voted in favor of the separation of families because when undocumented people are brought to the United States as children and are not provided a path to legal residency, they may very well be deported.”
Even by that logic, Lipinski clearly reversed course on providing legal residency to Dreamers.
Shortly after taking office, Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations and the U.S. refugee program.
Lipinski decried the president’s order in a press release at the time, calling it “ill conceived and harmful to innocent individuals.”
Instead of pointing to evidence Lipinski supports Trump’s travel ban, a version of which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018, Darwish’s spokesman cited the congressman’s absence from the list of cosponsors for a bill that would limit the president’s authority to restrict residents of other countries from entering the United States.
When we asked Lipinski’s campaign if he planned to support the bill, spokesperson Sally Daly told us he intends to vote for it. Daly also said he became a co-sponsor “this week,” but did not provide a specific date. The list now shows he was added on March 5, the same day we spoke with her.
Darwish’s tweet claims Lipinski “voted against the DREAM Act, supports separating families and banning Muslims.”
Lipinski did vote against the DREAM Act in 2010. But he now supports legislation to provide similar protections to immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
He has been a longtime critic of a Trump policy that resulted in children being separated from their families along the border and of the president’s travel ban affecting people from Muslim-majority nations.
Darwish’s claim contains some truth in citing Lipinski’s vote against the DREAM Act, but it gives a misleading impression overall of the congressman’s current stance on key immigration issues.
We rate his claim Mostly False.
MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Tweet, Rush Darwish, March 3, 2020
Candidate questionnaire, WTTW
H.R. 5281, 111th Congress
“Trump-O-Meter: DACA remains, but Trump administration eliminated DAPA,” PolitiFact, Jan. 11, 2019
Letter to President Trump from members of Congress, Aug. 1, 2017
“BROWN: Lipinski now supports DACA bill, Roskam still opposes,” Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 29, 2017
H.R. 6, 116th Congress
“Donald Trump falsely says family separations were Obama policy,” PolitiFact, Nov. 29, 2018
Press release, Congressman Dan Lipinski, June 14, 2018
H.R. 541, 116th Congress
Email: Darwish spokesperson Andrew Patinkin, March 4-5, 2020
“Trump’s travel restrictions survive Supreme Court, fall short of promised Muslim ban,” PolitiFact, Nov. 14, 2018
Press release, Congressman Dan Lipinski, Jan. 29, 2017
Email and phone interview: Lipinski spokesperson Sally Daly, March 5, 2020
H.R. 2214, 116th Congress