Tea Party Fractured Under Immigration Debate

Saturday, 02 Feb 2013 01:10 PM

By Matthew Auerbach

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The volatile issue of immigration reform is threatening to fracture the Tea Party, with some of the GOP’s strongest supporters and most outspoken opponents of the effort coming from its ranks.

Tea Party favorite Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is the face of the push to sell the bill to the GOP's conservative wing. He’s getting strong support from Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. and Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho and Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

But some of their fellow Tea Party members have hit back hard against the effort.

House Tea Party Caucus member Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, ripped a bipartisan Senate plan as "amnesty." Smith attacked the plan as a potential drain on the economy and a threat to border security.

Other members of the House Tea Party Caucus, including co-founding Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas and Steve King R-Iowa also remain unconvinced on the issue.

Many of the opponents of the plan fear that if undocumented immigrants are allowed to become permanent residents or citizens, it will drive up the federal debt and be a drag on the economy.

“My real concern with this plan is, quite frankly, it's going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars because they're going to have to foot the bill for government benefits going to these individuals,” Smith told The Hill.

But Rubio claims the passage of the plan is necessary for the future success of the Republican Party.

The debate on immigration has put a serious dent in the conservative movement’s “ability to convince these fast-growing communities that the principles of limited government and free enterprise are better for them than big government and collectivism,” he wrote on RedState.com.

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