“This latest TV ad from Alison Lundergan Grimes is deeply upsetting. Grimes seems to be forgetting that we are a nation of immigrants that has continually strived to honor all the hard-working people who aspire to the American Dream,” Ilya Sheyman, MoveOn.org’s executive director, said in a statement Tuesday.
“It’s deeply troubling that Grimes would stoop this low in order to try to defeat [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell, and she needs to take this offensive advertisement off the air immediately.”
Grimes’s ad accuses her Republican opponent, McConnell, of voting to provide “amnesty and taxpayer-funded benefits to three million illegal aliens, the largest legalization program in U.S. history,” and cites a Washington Post article.
Grimes appears at the end of the ad to approve the message and says, “I’ve never supported amnesty or benefits for illegal immigrants, and I never will.”
Many immigration reform activists say the term “illegal aliens” is offensive, urging the use of “undocumented” instead.
The campaign’s YouTube page shows that the ad has been online since Oct. 7 and is unlisted, which means that it doesn’t appear in searches or in other public spaces. It’s only accessible if with a direct link and isn’t visible on the campaign’s YouTube page.
In an email statement late Tuesday night, Grimes's campaign manager Jonathan Hurst sidestepped the controversy.
"Alison favors comprehensive immigration reform," he said. "Neither the recent bill that passed the Senate nor any other serious bill currently supported by most Democrats and Republicans is amnesty. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHow Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections The Armageddon elections to come MORE's hypocrisy on this issue is breathtaking."
Grimes has said she supports the bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013. That bill provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already in the country while allocating $46 billion for border security.
McConnell voted against the Senate immigration bill, which won the support of only 14 Republicans.
Democracy for America, a liberal group founded by 2004 presidential contender and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), also criticized the ad and asked the campaign to remove it from the airwaves.
"It's simply wrong for any Democrat to use right-wing talking points and dehumanize struggling immigrant families," Charles Chamberlain, the group's executive director, said in a statement.
"Democracy for America members have been proud to work with allies to end Mitch McConnell's 30-year career in Washington and save the Senate from Republican control, but every moment Secretary Grimes fails to remove this hurtful ad ignores the plight of millions and makes our work more difficult."
This story was updated on Oct. 15 at 10:34 a.m.