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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher December 14, 2020

Jon Ossoff isn’t for ‘total’ amnesty, backs a lockdown only if sought by experts

If Your Time is short

  • Democrat Jon Ossoff is challenging GOP Sen. David Perdue in one of two Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia that will decide which party controls the Senate.

  • Ossoff backs a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally, not “total, blanket amnesty.”

  • He is not seeking a lockdown to respond to COVID-19, but would support one if public health experts recommend it.

Republican Sen. David Perdue has taken to characterizing his opponent in the Georgia runoff as being extreme.

During a Dec. 7 interview with talk show host Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump’s former press secretary, Perdue said that he strategically skipped a debate with Democrat Jon Ossoff the night before because he was "letting this guy talk."

Then Perdue made a claim about Ossoff’s platform on two different policies — and exaggerates them both.

"We witnessed last night something I didn’t think we’d ever see, and that is a debate participant lose a debate with himself," Perdue said. "I mean, the more he talked, the more we could see he had no preparation. If you look at what he was talking about, he had no idea what to do with COVID. He wants total, blanket amnesty, and he wants a total lockdown."

The outcome of that contest — along with another Jan. 5 Georgia runoff between GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnoff — will determine whether control of the Senate remains with the GOP or shifts to the Democrats.

Perdue’s campaign manager also claimed that Ossoff took the seemingly unrelated policy positions — amnesty, for illegal immigration, and a lockdown, for the pandemic. And Perdue later repeated his claim in a radio interview.

Ossoff backs a path to legal status, not "blanket" amnesty, for immigrants living in the United States illegally. He isn’t seeking a lockdown to respond to COVID-19, but indicated he would support one if public health experts recommend it.

No evidence Ossoff favors "total" amnesty

Perdue’s campaign did not respond to our request for information for this fact-check, but it’s clear his reference to amnesty regards illegal immigration.

Some view amnesty as permission for immigrants living in the country illegally to simply remain in the United States. The idea of "blanket amnesty" suggests a formal, legal act, in which the government pardons a group for violating immigration policies and allows them to obtain permanent residency.

There is no evidence Ossoff supports that approach. 

Others view amnesty as any measure that is favorable to any immigrants living here illegally, even if it includes a list of tough measures they have to meet. Indeed, there can be various forms of it. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, paved the way for immigrants who were in the country illegally to become lawful permanent residents if they met certain requirements.

Ossoff says he wants to provide a pathway for immigrants living in the United States illegally to gain a legal status, not for merely granting them legal status without conditions or requirements.

The immigration section of Ossoff’s campaign website says he will "support an immigration policy that strengthens our borders, puts American workers first, respects human rights, and creates a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who are already here and otherwise follow the law, especially those brought here as children."

In the debate, Ossoff was asked what he would do for immigrants who are living in a "gray area" in the United States. Ossoff reiterated the stance on his campaign website.

Ossoff’s campaign told us Ossoff has not put out further details on how a person would reach legal immigration status.

Advocates for targeted shelter-in-place orders

Ossoff has indicated he would back a lockdown to respond to COVID-19 if public health officials deemed one necessary.

Ossoff’s COVID-19 policy emphasizes providing more health care resources and "emergency cash" to individuals and businesses, but it also calls for "strong distancing policies now, not later, including shelter-in-place orders where necessary."

In the debate, Ossoff was asked by Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Greg Bluestein what the federal government should do to contain the virus and if he would endorse a new lockdown if public health experts supported one.

Ossoff said he would listen to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts. Pressed by Bluestein about a lockdown, Ossoff said: "I will listen to the public health experts, and if they recommend that more aggressive mitigation measures are necessary to save lives, it would be foolish for politicians to ignore their advice."

Ossoff made similar remarks a week earlier in a CNN interview

Asked if he would support harsher restrictions in Georgia, such as closing restaurants and businesses temporarily, Ossoff said "I think we should follow the expertise of public health experts," including the CDC, "and if that is the consensus of the public health community, we need to take that advice very seriously."

Anchor Dana Bash followed up asking: "So, if they said shut things down temporarily, you would be all for it?"

Ossoff replied: "If the CDC and its leadership gave a strong indication that those kinds of stronger mitigation measures are necessary to save lives and contain the spread of the virus, it would be malpractice for politicians to ignore that advice."

Our ruling

Perdue said Ossoff "wants total, blanket amnesty and he wants a total lockdown."

Ossoff backs a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally who meet a set of requirements, not a blanket amnesty without conditions. He is not seeking a lockdown to respond to COVID-19, but would support one if public health experts recommend it

We rate Perdue’s statement Mostly False.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Our Sources

YouTube, Spicer & Co. interview of David Perdue (2:15), Dec. 7, 2020

Newsmax, "Sen. David Perdue to Newsmax TV: Ossoff Debated a Podium, and Lost," Dec. 9, 2020

Email, Jon Ossoff spokeswoman Miryam Lipper, Dec. 11, 2020

Daily Tribune News, "U.S. Senator Perdue makes campaign stop in Bartow County," Dec. 11, 2020

Jon Ossoff campaign website, "Immigration," accessed Dec. 11, 2020

Jon Ossoff campaign website, "COVID-19," accessed Dec. 12, 2020

CNN, transcript of Jon Ossoff interview, Nov. 29, 2020

FactCheck.org, "Opening Ads in the Perdue-Ossoff Runoff," Nov. 19, 2020

Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, "Amnesty," accessed Dec. 12, 2020

WTOC-TV, "Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff outlines campaign for US Senate," Jan. 7, 2020

Rev.com, Jon Ossoff debate (immigration), Dec. 6, 2020

Rev.com, Jon Ossoff debate (COVID-19), Dec. 6, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Georgia 2020: Where U.S. Senate Democratic candidates stand on the issues," May 28, 2020 

PolitiFact, "Ann Coulter says Trump granted amnesty to nearly 100,000 'Dreamers.' Is that true?", June 21, 2017

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Jon Ossoff isn’t for ‘total’ amnesty, backs a lockdown only if sought by experts

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