Tea party leader argues for immigration reform
May 14th, 2014
05:39 PM ET
6 months ago

Tea party leader argues for immigration reform

(CNN) – Bucking the general hesitation on the right to move forward with immigration reform in a midterm year, Sal Russo, a leading tea party activist, is making the case for conservatives to take the lead on the issue.

A co-founder for the Tea Party Express, Russo called on Congress to fix a "flawed and broken" system to keep pace with a growing economy.

"Conservatives should be at the forefront of reform so the law reflects the just interests of the United States, not misty-eyed ideals of some of the liberal do-gooder reformers. What is good for America should be the sole criteria for immigration reform," he said in an opinion piece published Wednesday by Roll Call.

Russo's appeal to update the United States' immigration system isn't the first coming from a conservative amid Republican opposition on Capitol Hill.

Complete coverage of the 2014 midterm elections

When the Senate approved the immigration reform bill last June that was pushed by a bipartisan "Gang of Eight," anti-tax activist Grover Norquist stood alongside the four Democrats and four Republicans in arguing for Congress to adopt the legislation.

The measure, which stalled in the GOP-led House, includes an eventual pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, a provision met with strong opposition from many conservatives.

Related: Maybe immigration reform isn't dead after all

The Tea Party Express is one of the largest and most politically active national tea party organizations. It got its start in 2009 as a bus tour that crisscrossed the country as it held rallies and supported conservative candidates. In the 2012 election cycle, the group partnered with CNN to host the first tea party Republican presidential debate.

In a release Monday, Russo announced his group would join forces with Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform for a monthly conference call to highlight conservative support for changes to the U.S. immigration system.

Tea partiers' support for immigration reform lags

Russo, and a handful of other immigration outliers in the tea party, may have an uphill battle to fight for support on the issue.

A majority nationwide support immigration reform, but polls indicate tea party-leaning voters are less supportive for reforms than Americans as a whole.

According to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted in February, over half of the public said the top priority for the federal government in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration should be developing a plan that would allow undocumented workers with jobs to eventually become legal U.S. residents rather than beefing up border security.

That's compared to the 29% of self-described tea party supporters who said legalizing the status of the undocumented trumped border security.

Pathway to citizenship is the sticking point

A path to legal status for undocumented workers has been the deal breaker for House Republicans. In January, GOP leaders in the lower chamber unveiled an outline of immigration standards, insisting there "will be no special path to citizenship" for the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats wouldn't accept a proposal without a pathway to citizenship.

In the opinion piece, Russo said the U.S. should allow the millions of undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status, but not without penalty, to make sure these people are paying taxes and obeying the law.

"We have to get them right by the law in exchange for legal status, but not unbridled amnesty," he said, underscoring that these people should not cut in front of those waiting in line for green cards.

America, Russo said, will fall behind other countries with more accessibility to green cards. He also makes the case that the U.S. economy would benefit from reforms like a revamp of its worker visa programs for seasonal workers to meet farm labor demands.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Related: Obama makes new pitch for immigration reform


Filed under: 2014 • Grover Norquist • Immigration • Tea Party • Tea Party Express
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    -USA needs strict immigration reform, for sure. Just because kid is born, don't give citizenship automatically, either of parent need citizenship. Pass immigration reform.

    May 14, 2014 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  2. Chris-E...al

    They should fix the border and go from there ! Without that action first it would be like a invitation with a get out of jail card . I tell ya what . head shake spit .

    May 14, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "Pathway to citizenship is the sticking point"

    Allowing more brown people to vote is the sticking point.

    FIFY

    Candy-cost, whitewash and gloss-over it all you want, GOPers/Teatrolls and CNN...but we're not freekin stupid. If these people trended towards voting conservative, they'd have been voting already...with both the GOP/Teatrolls' blessing and the MSM's vocal support. Because they don't, they're relegated to "maybe, MAYBE, we'll create an official second-class citizenship status for you, but not let you participate in your own governance."

    May 14, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  4. BBunsen

    Gee . . . could it be that some in the Tea Party are realizing that their vision for America is shared by only about 10% of the citizens, and that their rigid ideological stance is not only out of touch, but will keep them from significantly participating in the conversation?

    May 14, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  5. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    "A leading tea party activist, is making the case for conservatives to take the lead on the issue".

    BWAAAAA HHHHHAAAAA HHHHAAAAAA!
    Conservatives couldn't "lead" a fart out of a Taco Bell!

    May 14, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Nothing can be considered until the border is CLOSED, and kept closed. Then we can talk. Not until.

    May 14, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  7. Sebastian O'Brian

    We support immigration reform !

    May 14, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  8. Steve851

    If you are a TP person you would have to oppose wasting taxpayer dollars deporting people who have committed no crime and closing an unsealable border. At least, that's my TP view.

    May 14, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  9. Tom

    Language Matters

    They Say: Immigration Reform.

    They Mean: Uncontrolled Immigration.

    "Immigration Reform" used to mean - and should mean - improving the immigration system for the benefit of th American people. The official, bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform concluded that "reform" required cutting legal immigration from a million a year to a half-million and insisting that illegal aliens go home.

    But politicians and media who use the term today mean "Uncontrolled Immigration." They mean allowing nearly all illegal aliens to remain and doubling the level of legal immigration.

    May 14, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  10. Thomas

    No way !

    A co-founder for the Tea Party Express, Russo called on Congress to fix a "flawed and broken" system to keep pace with a growing economy.

    Ted Cruz / Marco Rubio

    We shut the government down for fun !

    May 14, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  11. smith1

    they know they can't win without reform.

    May 14, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  12. Miami Mike

    Immigration "Reform" is a disaster waiting to happen. As politicians wave the idea if Amnesty around, more illegal immigrants will flood the border. When the dust settles, your tax dollars no longer benefit you but the millions of families that entered illegally.

    May 14, 2014 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  13. galactus

    We need the Federal Government to enforce our immigration laws. Deport all 12 million illegal aliens.

    May 14, 2014 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  14. Vence

    No immigration reform from GOP, no Hispanic vote for GOP. Period!

    May 14, 2014 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  15. Angel

    Russo said the U.S. should allow the millions of undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status, but not without penalty, to make sure these people are paying taxes and obeying the law.
    RUSSO the indocumented immigrants work and paying taxes inform your self....

    “We have to get them right by the law in exchange for legal status, but not unbridled amnesty,” he said, underscoring that these people should not cut in front of those waiting in line for green cards.
    Firstable there is no amnesty , amnesty is where give you a green card status right in that moment isn't amnesty when you have to wait 10 years of yor life paying taxes with not benefits learn english and pay fines ...cut in front of those waiting in line for green cards
    Please by th moment those indocumented inmigrants have the green card for a perfect example a indocumented immigrant that have 36 ten years of his live paying taxes with not benefits at the age of 46 he may have the green card 3 years more of wait and paying fines at the age of 49 almost 50 years he may get the citizen ship not unless don't die first
    That's why all the people hate the way the conservative republicans think RACIST

    May 15, 2014 04:13 am at 4:13 am |
  16. salty dog

    The only thing they want is the 46 billion in contract money, and of course the "piece by piece' approach will get a yes vote on funding, but a no on anything real in the bills.

    May 15, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |