How the Tea Party is Influencing Republicans on Immigration Reform

The Tea Party, an unofficial, more conservative wing of the Republican party, was first mentioned in 2007 as a movement inspired by Ron Paul and the Koch brothers. It considers itself a grassroots movement inspired to call "awareness to any issue which challenges the security, sovereignty, or domestic tranquility of our beloved nation." It has been praised by some conservatives and vilified by most liberals.

While unofficial and grassroots, the Tea Party has a great impact on the Republican Party’s platform. It will not be going away any time soon. Since the Tea Party has been colored in so many ways by a variety of media, it is also necessary to objectively examine the effect the Tea Party has on the Republican party’s platform on one of the most controversial issues in the United States: immigration.

Let’s first look at the Tea Party’s stance on immigration independent of the impact on the Republican Party. It is extremely hardline, suggesting that no illegal immigrant should be allowed a path to citizenship or amnesty. They also believe in building better fencing between the U.S.-Mexico border and mass deportation of undocumented workers. They are opposed to the D.R.E.AM. Act and other attempts to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to support undocumented immigrants.

While many people have the notion that Tea Partiers are anti-immigration, Bill Whittle, a conservative blogger and political commentator, alleges that Tea Partiers are anti-illegal immigration. According to his video, produced by Declaration Entertainment, illegal immigrants should respect the law —  especially since lawlessness is the reason most of them have left their countries in the first place.

Balancing the image of the Tea Party that the media has created and the image that Tea Partiers have created is difficult and sometimes precarious. An interesting new update to this saga is immigration, which is now splitting Tea Party lawmakers. The bipartisan effort to pass immigration legislation has caused a deep divide in the Tea Party camp. One of the Tea Party’s biggest stars, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), has been leading efforts to sell any bipartisan legislation to the GOP’s conservative wing. However, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has claimed that the bill is "amnesty," and worries that it will drain economic resources and threaten border security. The opposing camps are growing in number.

 Marco Rubio has tried to explain to different media outlets why he supports bipartisan reform, saying that it is imperative that the Republican Party undergo changes in its immigration platform. According to Rubio, it is necessary to convince these fast-growing communities that "the principles of limited government and free enterprise are better for them than big government and collectivism." Others, like Rep. Smith, believe that this plan is going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Many people have blamed the Tea Party for the increasingly conservative stance of the Republican Party, which had succeeded turning voters off during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. However, it’s essential to realize that they have received unfair media attention to a certain degree.

True, I don’t agree with Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, or the Tea Party principles, but I can understand their points of view. If some Tea Partiers would like to compromise with members of the GOP and Democratic Party, then maybe there is hope of further compromise on other issues.

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Anjana Sreedhar

Anjana is a passionate NYU student studying International Relations and Gender and Sexuality. She is also a PolicyMic writing intern who enjoys following the news and hopes to work in international development, particularly improving reproductive health of women and girls. When not studying, working, or researching, you'll find her editing for the NYU Journal of Politics and International Affairs, writing for NYU Generasian and Washington Square News, or watching Downton Abbey with a cup of masala chai.

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