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Multiple new polls show tea-party activists see the border crisis as the most important issue of the 2014 midterm elections, and the movement once known for its insistence upon less spending and smaller government is ready to make border security a critical issue heading into November.
Surveys from Gallup, Polling Company Inc. and the Tea Party Patriots show immigration as the top issue for voters in 2014. Democrats historically have an edge in the debate due to their insistence that the vast majority of those in the country illegally are good people trying to make a better life for their families and they are deserving of a chance. However, the recent flood of illegal border crossings has changed some opinions, including those of congressional Republicans.
GOP leaders from the Republican National Committee to House Speaker John Boehner to 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan consistently pushed for comprehensive immigration reform in the wake of President Obama’s re-election. Their plans were scuttled by GOP House members earlier this year. By July, while the border crisis raged, most Republicans seemed very hesitant to move in that direction.
Tea Party Patriots President Jenny Beth Martin said she thinks Republicans officially got the message.
“What we saw happen at the end of July in the House of Representatives showed that the House of Representatives was finally listening to the people and doing what the people want,” she said. “People do not want amnesty granted to people who have broken the law and come to our country illegally.”
According to Martin, grassroots tea-party activists see immigration as a bedrock issue this year both on grounds of economic fairness and the rule of law.
“While the economy is slightly improving, there are more people who are underemployed than [there] have been in many, many years in this country,” she said. “The thought of bringing even more people into the country to compete for jobs that Americans that are still having trouble finding is very concerning.”
She added, “You watch what has happened at the border and the way people are coming across the border, ignoring the rule of law and being unfair to those who have actually obeyed the law to immigrate to the country on a legal path to citizenship. Americans are concerned about that. We understand America is a nation of laws, not a nation of men.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Jenny Beth Martin:
Martin said that legal path is not only the key to observing the rule of law but a winning political argument against the Democratic Party's case for compassion toward illegal aliens.
"There is a legal path to citizenship already," she said. "There are people who come to this country because they truly do want a better life for themselves and for their family. They want to pursue the American dream. They respect our country and they respect the rules and laws that are in place already.
"It's not fair or just or right to those people who are obeying the rules to allow somebody else who has disrespected the rule of law special privileges and allow them to cut in line in front of those who have been waiting patiently."
Martin also expects a fierce backlash from Americans of all political stripes if President Obama makes good on his promise to address illegal immigration through executive action, which some believe could mean authorizing work permits for up to five million people in the U.S. illegally. Martin said Americans expect Washington to follow the Constitution.
"Americans want the president to work with Congress," she said. "They don't want the president acting without working with Congress. We have a system in place where we have elections for members of Congress and we have elections for the president. Those elections have consequences. Sometimes that means you can't get your way."
Martin is upbeat on the midterm elections, despite numerous fierce battles between tea-party candidates and the national Republican Party.
The Mississippi GOP primary, in which incumbent Thad Cochran edged challenger Chris McDaniel in a particularly nasty runoff, is emblematic of a frayed relationship between the GOP and grassroots activists. Still, Martin said both sides agree the immediate goal for both groups is winning in November.
"There is certainly a major divide, and it's going to take some time to resolve that," she said. "In the next 60-70 days, as we're looking toward the November election, I think tea-party activists and people within the Republican leadership can agree that the one thing we need to focus on is how can we stop the president's agenda from continuing in the United States Senate. And how can we get the Senate functioning again so that they're voting on bills that the House has passed."
Martin concluded, "The way to do that is to change the majority in the United States Senate."