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Paper 'busts' lawmakers at immigration rally pointing to 'empty boxes'
Ron Brynaert
Published: Monday June 18, 2007
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Lawmakers were pointing to "empty boxes" at a press conference last Thursday, a Capitol Hill newspaper reports.

"At a pro-immigration rally Thursday, a group of politicians including Sens. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) addressed reporters while picturesquely standing in front of an impressive tower of boxes they said contained letters from a million supporters of comprehensive immigration reform," Emily Heil reports for Roll Call's 'Heard on the Hill.'

According to a press release, the letters were part of the "Por la Reforma Migratoria con Piolín" campaign launched by Univision radio personality Eddie 'Piolín' Sotelo, and was touted as marking "the first time that a letter writing campaign has generated such a large number of letters in support of immigration reform."

"As the Members repeatedly referred to the letters and gestured toward the boxes allegedly containing them as evidence of the support for the immigration bill that is struggling in the Senate, a crack Roll Call photographer on hand at the event began to grow suspicious," Heil continues. "He could see light shining through the handles of the boxes, indicating that they weren’t full."

The paper reveals, "Sure enough, a quick check revealed that the boxes were, indeed, completely empty."

However, as the above photo shows, at least some letters were present at the press conference.

In January of 2003, a speech by Bush elicited some controversy when it was discovered that "prop" boxes had been relabeled to provide visual cues for the president.

As CNN reported, "When the president delivered his remarks, he did so from the floor of a warehouse with American flags in the background along with the logo 'Strengthening America's Economy' on a backdrop of boxes. The boxes were stamped 'Made in U.S.A.' One problem: The boxes were made in China."

"And that was evident despite an effort to hide labels on boxes surrounding the stage," the CNN report continued. "The boxes placed on the side of the stage had 'Made in China' labels covered up with white pieces of paper."

A White House spokesman later blamed the incident on an "overzealous advance volunteer."

Excerpts from Roll Call article:

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Carlos Sanchez, spokesman for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which helped coordinate the event, said that actually bringing the 310 boxes full of the real, dead-tree letters that Sotelo collected would have presented a security headache in a box-spooked world. “We didn’t want to put Capitol Police through the stress of having hundreds of boxes out there,” he said of the event’s Russell Park location.

Turns out, figuring out what the heck to do with the boxes is tougher than you’d think. Sotelo traveled with them in an 18-wheeler across the country to deliver them, but they couldn’t just be dumped at the Capitol. Now, nonprofit groups are divvying them up and will spend the next weeks sorting them by Congressional district for delivery to the proper Hill offices, Sanchez said.

HOH is shocked — shocked — to learn that in politics, as in theater, all is not as it seems.

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FULL ROLL CALL ARTICLE CAN BE READ AT THIS LINK

(Correction: Article originally incorrectly referred only to Democrats at pro-immigration rally)