Politics
11:30 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Kentucky Tea Party Groups Urging House Delegation to Oppose Immigration Reform

The United Kentucky Tea Party is putting members of the state’s congressional delegation on notice to oppose any attempt at overhauling the U.S. immigration system this year.

Late last week House Republicans unveiled a one-page set of standards that would allow those who immigrated to the U.S. illegally to obtain citizenship.

The plan would be contingent on securing the border and calls for a rigorous background check for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. Those individuals would also have to pay significant fines or back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civis, and support themselves without public assistance.

Democrats have taken exception to some of the provisions, but many observers say this is a step toward reform.

United Kentucky Tea Party spokesman Scott Hofstra says grassroots conservatives are displeased with the GOP proposal, however. He says there are other issues worth addressing first.

"Everything we're hearing shows about two-thirds of the House Republicans don't want to even tackle immigration reform right now, and we don’t believe they should be. There are far bigger issues to tackle like the debt and current debt ceiling," he says. "Immigration reform was not something they needed to take on at this time and we’re very disappointed they’re making this their big push."

Hofstra's group represents over two dozen tea party organizations spread across the state. They are telling conservative activists to contact Kentucky's congressional delegation, particularly its five Republican members, to vote against the leadership proposal.

In a statement, Congressman Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., told WFPL the GOP conference has many views on the issue, but he indicated there is general consensus that reforming the system cannot wait.

From Guthrie's office:

"Last week’s conference retreat covered many issues, including immigration reform. Like our nation, the Republican Conference has a lot of views on immigration reform. But there is agreement on two key things–we need to secure our border and overhaul the current system. As we work through the legislative process, I look forward to continuing to hear from Kentuckians on the many complex proposals relating to immigration reform."

Kentucky’s lone Democratic Congressman, John Yarmuth, favors comprehensive changes. And like many, he points out national Republicans have a political incentive to change the system given their poor performance among Hispanic voters in 2012.

Yarmuth said in a recent interview there is no organized opposition to the reforms.

The House has already blocked the comprehensive immigration reform package passed by the Senate, which was in many ways a response to a conservative base demanding even tighter border security.

Even now Republican leaders such as Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin say the sluggish pace is due in large party to distrust that the Obama administration will adequately enforce any new border provisions.

But it appears tea party activists distrust GOP lawmakers just as much.

"I would advise (Republicans) not to take it on at all. And I would say, pardon me for saying so, but a dozen or more years ago Congress promised us they were going to seal the border with a fence and that hasn’t happened either," says Hoftstra. "So why should we believe them this time?"

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