On MSNBC’s “NewsNation” on Wednesday, host Tamron Hall confronted New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez about an Associated Press report that he had employed an illegal-immigrant sex offender as an unpaid intern.
Hall pressed Menendez on suggestions that the Department of Homeland Security was told to hold off on the intern’s arrest until after Election Day. (RELATED: Prostitutes in the Dominican Republican claim Menendez paid them for sex)
“Absolutely not,” Menendez said. “I didn’t know about the young man’s status until this Monday, so — actually, before I came onto this program. My staff knew about it on Monday, I didn’t know about it until I came right before your program. And I assume at some point you want to talk about immigration reform.”
Hall said the incident was, in fact, related to the broader immigration issue. But Menendez pushed back, emphasizing that the employee was simply an intern receiving an educational experience.
“First of all, let’s get clear,” Menendez said. “When you keep saying working, he is an unpaid college intern. So it’s now like he’s a staff paid person. We have a whole bunch of college interns. We give them an experience in the office and they answer phones and do some mail. And most of the time they attend lectures and different entities in the federal government that we bring through the office. So it’s not like an employee, number one. Number two, there is no way we could know about his status. We ask about status. And number three is there is no way we could know about any allegation as a juvenile of what his background would be in terms of any criminality. So, that’s the story.”
“It does speak volumes about why we need comprehensive immigration reform,” Menendez added, “because I can’t know who is here to pursue the American dream versus who is here to do it damage if cannot get people to come forth out of the shadows, go through a criminal background check and determine who is here to pursue the dream, and make sure those who are here and have backgrounds get to court.”