Tea Party groups are not supporting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and the rest of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” and their immigration bill despite erroneous reporting by Politico, Breitbart News has learned.
Politico’s lead story Tuesday afternoon claims that Tea Partiers are the “new ally” of the Gang of Eight pushing immigration reform. “Immigration reform supporters are about to get some new conservative bonafides — prominent tea party backers,” Politico’s Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti wrote. “Several conservative activists and tea party group leaders are meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) Tuesday afternoon to discuss immigration reform, including a list of what they support – and don’t.”
The Politico reporters then cited at least two specific Tea Party groups as supportive of immigration reform and the bill.
“Tea Party Express, TheTeaParty.Net and Revive America leaders as well as Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist are expected to be among the more than two dozen grassroots conservative leaders huddling with the Florida Republican,” they wrote. “The groups in the meeting support immigration reform.”
But those two Tea Party groups each told Breitbart News they are either opposed to the bill or not weighing in on the fight at all.
TheTeaParty.Net chief strategist Niger Innis said that Rubio invited the group to discuss the legislation, and the group planned to go and report the concerns the conservative base has with it–not to express any kind of support for it. Innis said his group will not support a piece of immigration legislation that grants amnesty and does not secure the border immediately.
“We were invited by Sen. Rubio’s office to discuss the current legislation on immigration, and importantly, to offer our views on how we think it can be fixed,” Innis said in a statement provided exclusively to Breitbart News. “We are going to hear him out, rather than rely on the liberal media interpretation of his legislation. Reports that we have agreed to support the Gang of Eight bill are utter make-believe.”
Innis added that his group has heard from Americans all around the country who oppose this legislation.
Tea Party Express’s Mark Standriff said in an email that his group has not and will not take a side on immigration reform. “Tea Party Express focuses solely on fiscal issues – spending and taxes. Immigration, like other social issues, fall outside our focus and thus we do not have a position on them,” Standriff said. “For that reason, we will not be playing any role in the Gang of Eight immigration bill or any future legislation on this topic.”
In the Politico story, both Rubio himself and his spokesman Alex Conant seemed to suggest that their ongoing outreach to conservative groups was becoming effective. “We’ve talked to everybody. Right now it’s an informational stage. People want to learn more about it, ways we can make it better. [We’re] taking a lot of input as well,” Rubio said. “I think people are willing to do something on immigration as long as we can ensure this problem never happens again.”
Conant said, “the large number of conservatives supporting immigration reform is one of the reasons we are optimistic that reform will pass this year,” and “there is a very strong coalition on the right that wants to fix our broken immigration system and end defacto amnesty.”
Rubio’s fellow Gang of Eight member Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also implied Tea Partiers and conservatives are supporting the bill, more so than previous immigration reform legislation attempts, telling Politico, “it seems to be a much better environment than we had in 2006 and 2007,” and, “we’re always hopeful… we’ll take support wherever we can get it.”
Groups like FreedomWorks and the Club For Growth have remained quiet on this legislation thus far, but Tea Party Patriots, another major force in the grassroots, has adamantly opposed it and offered activists nationwide guidelines for getting involved to fight it.