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Immigration Advocates Rush to Menendez's Defense

Fellow immigration overhaul advocates remain behind Menendez. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two longtime allies released statements of support within minutes of the announcement of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez's 14-count federal indictment Wednesday.  

Illinois Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, a fellow Democrat, and America's Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry both praised the Garden State senator's character and his work on issues important to the immigrant community. "Bob Menendez has never given me any reason to question his integrity, his dedication to honest public service or his commitment to the American people," said Gutiérrez, a leading advocate in Congress for an immigration overhaul. "As a leader in the House and in the Senate, he has been a key ally in fighting for sensible immigration reform and a touchstone for all matters related to Latinos in this country.  

"He is a friend who is quick with advice, encouragement and good ideas. I'm particularly proud of his leadership on foreign policy matters related to Latin America. My hope is that these legal matters are resolved quickly so he can go back to concentrating 100 percent on his service to the people of New Jersey and the United States."  

Sharry, an immigration rights advocate who has worked with Menendez over the years on immigration overhaul legislation, echoed Gutierrez's sentiments, calling him "not only the senior Senator from New Jersey; he's also the senior Senator for Latinos in America."  

"I know him well and love him dearly," Sharry said in a statement. "He has been relentless and effective. ... And he is a major reason why Dreamers won relief under [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program], why some 5 million undocumented immigrants are on the verge of living without fear in the country they now call home, and why comprehensive immigration reform is an idea whose time has come for some three quarters of the American public."  

Menendez is scheduled to address the press from Newark, N.J., at 7 p.m. regarding the charges waged against him by the Department of Justice. The indictment stems from his relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor and political donor to Menendez who was also indicted Wednesday.  

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the duo were indicted for a scheme in which “Menendez allegedly accepted gifts from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to benefit Melgen’s financial and personal interests.”  

Menendez has maintained his innocence.  

Niels Lesniewski and Emily Cahn contributed to this report. Related: Menendez Indicted on Federal Corruption Charges Menendez: I'm Not Going Anywhere Will Menendez Staffers Be Forced to Testify Against Their Boss? The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.