Tea party members are beginning to pressure House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to push a stand-alone border security bill, declaring the recently passed Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill dead on arrival in the lower chamber.
That’s the message the Cincinnati Tea Party sent to Boehner in a letter on Monday, along with dozens of other group leaders. And they are calling for more signatures. The groups said any House legislation must promote only enforcement first. The Cincinnati Tea Party is an affiliate of Tea Party Patriots, one of America’s largest tea party organizations.
But the Cincinnati group doesn’t want just any border security plan. To ensure that immigration laws are enforced this time around, the group is calling for a House bill that puts power to enforce them in the hands of local sheriffs rather than the Department of Homeland Security.
“We ask that you as our chief representative in the people’s House to take the lead as defender of the people’s skepticism,” wrote Chapter President Ann Becker. “If the House wishes to take up the issues of border security, start over with a new bill with the singular focus of real border security that has verification by local sheriffs, not by the Homeland Security Department.”
The Senate immigration reform bill passed last Thursday 68 to 32. If it becomes law -- and there is a slim chance -- it will add 20,000 border patrol agents on the southern border, as well as drones and more fences. That was the border security deal two Republican senators struck so that the overall legislation could pass the upper chamber. Their hope was that such an “overkill” bill would win the support of more conservatives.
But Becker remains unimpressed. She said that the House shouldn’t consider any bill until lawmakers determine the damage that legalizing the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants would impose on poor Americans. She said that, even with the "border surge" amendment that added agents, the Senate’s 2013 immigration reform legislation “is a bad bill.”
“Any bill that comes out of Congress must put border security first as a stand-alone bill,” the letter read. “How can you say no to this?”
Though it is taking a piecemeal approach, the House Judiciary Committee recently passed a measure known as the SAFE Act, which focuses on so-called "interior" enforcement. Written by Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, that bill would offer incentives to local and state police to enforce immigration laws.
The Cincinnati Tea Party isn’t the only group worried about the impact legalization could have on Americans. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, an anti-immigration group, has also expressed concern for the American jobs.
“It is an absolute sellout of the interests of the American people,” FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman said. “[The Senate bill] will further undermine wages and job opportunities for American workers. It will impose enormous burdens on taxpayers. Nobody has looked at the state and local costs that would be associated with this bill becoming law.”
Last month, the Congressional Budget Office reported that, if the Senate reform bill becomes law, there would be close to a $1 trillion in federal deficit reduction in the first 20 years.
House Republicans, who have been steadfast on reducing the deficit, remain unfazed by these numbers. Even with that, Boehner has said he will not entertain the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill and that his caucus will work on its own immigration reform bill.
But that does not satisfy some activists who argue for strict immigration curbs.
“I think if it was left up to John Boehner and Eric Cantor they would go into conference and bargain everything away and come up with an amnesty bill,” Mehlman said. “I think that is what they would really like. But I think what we’ve seen over the past few days and weeks is that the Republican caucus in the House is making it very clear to the speaker and to the House majority leader that they are not going to tolerate that.”