Republicans Embrace Tea Party on Immigration

Image: Republicans Embrace Tea Party on Immigration Reps. Michele Bachmann and Steve King pass through Statuary Hall after a vote on the House floor on Aug. 1. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 07:52 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The Republican Party's immigration agenda on Capitol Hill is driven by its tea party wing, The New York Times reported.

House Speaker John Boehner had sought to marginalize Republicans who oppose any form of legal status for immigrants in the United States illegally. The party establishment spent millions of dollars to defeat tea party candidates in the primaries.

In the end, the party's most passionate opponents of immigration reform were instrumental in shaping legislation that passed the House before the summer break.

The conservative group includes Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Steve King of Iowa, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Mo Brooks of Alabama, according to the Times. Labrador, formerly an immigration lawyer, has expertise in the field.

"This was one of the most remarkable experiences I've had in my eight years in Congress," Bachmann said, according to the Times. "We were able to achieve unity across the conference in what is likely to be the most consequential issue of this time: immigration."

"Those of us who believed in border security were, by and large, cast aside," said Brooks. "Funny how things can change real quickly when the only way you can pass legislation is to amend it our way."

The tea party group wanted language raising the bar on granting asylum hearings to unaccompanied children who had arrived illegally at the border and to phase out a presidential executive order that granted legal status to certain migrants who had arrived in the country illegally with their parents.

Democrats and moderate Republicans say the tea party's uncompromising influence on immigration is regrettable.

Labrador remains adamant. "Before now, our leadership was looking at what can pass in the Senate. That's not my concern. I want the most conservative piece of legislation that can pass the House."

Republicans in the Senate are considerably less obliged to tea party influence. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky strongly opposes its influence.

The sway the tea party has on the House may embolden the Obama administration to use executive actions to get its way on immigration – a move that could precipitate a constitutional crisis over presidential power, according to the Times.

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