Tea Party Lawmakers Touted as key to Immigration Reform

Wednesday, 29 Jan 2014 03:06 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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Whether immigration reform happens this year could depend on who presents a more appealing case to House Republicans — the old guard GOP or the tea party, according to The Hill.

The conservative American Principles Project is focusing their lobbying efforts on lawmakers they characterize as “influencers,” members of the tea party whose opinions can sway their GOP colleagues, according to Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.

The Latino Partnership is part of the effort by the American Principles Project to engage more Latinos in conservative issues, particularly the debate over immigration.

“While there are vocal factions on either side of the debate, the battle for immigration reform will be fought over a bloc of lawmakers who have stayed relatively quiet on the issue,” The Hill noted in a report Sunday. “Many of them will take their lead from conservative colleagues they respect more than House GOP leaders or big business groups.”

The five ‘influencers” in American Principles’ sights are JasonChaffetz of Utah, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Justin Amash of Michigan, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and Louisiana’s Steve Scalise. Two other potential influencers are Reps. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Steve Pearce of New Mexico, Aguilar noted.

Last week, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, rattled the cages of many conservatives when he blamed stalled immigration reform measures on racist tea party members who are upset about America’s changing demographics, Talking Points Memo reported.

"Yes, things have changed,” Schumer said during a speech to the liberal Center for American Progress. “White Anglo-Saxon men are not exclusively running the country anymore. President Obama lost the white male vote 35 to 62 percent yet he recaptured the presidency -- by 5 million votes and a resounding electoral college margin.

"It also explains why so many on the right vehemently opposed the Senate immigration bill, a bill that actually embodies many conservative, non-governmental principals: reducing our deficit by billions, growing our economy, creating jobs and spurring new entrepreneurial activity," he said. "In a pre-tea party world, the Senate immigration bill would have been welcomed by House Republicans. However, the tea party rank and file know it's a different America. It looks different; it prays different; it works different. This is unsettling and angering to some."

House Speaker John Boehner has vowed only to advance immigration legislation if a majority of the GOP’s 233 members support it.

Though polls indicate the tea party as a whole does not favor a new pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, there are tea party representatives whose position is unclear.

Amash, according to The Hill, “has a libertarian streak while Pearce represents a district that is 52 percent Hispanic and Ellmers is a Democratic target this year.”

Even elected officials who oppose any path to citizenship recognize there is political obligation and capital in representing the communities they serve, according to The Hill. The newspaper referenced a op-ed piece in North Carolina's Fayetteville Observer penned by Ellmers, who expressed support for legal status and naturalization for illegal immigrants.

“I do not support a ‘pathway to citizenship’ or ‘amnesty,’” she wrote. “We are a nation of laws, and when those laws are violated, there is a price that needs to be paid. However, we must also acknowledge that these people have lived in our communities for years and are a vital part of many farms and businesses right here in the 2nd District.”

Citing Republican aides, The New York Times reports that Boehner is expected unveil a bill that will “call for a path to legal status — but not citizenship — for many of the 11 million adult immigrants who are in the country illegally." But the Times notes that Republicans will offer a pathway to citizenship "for immigrants brought to the United States illegally as young children."

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