Sal Russo, co-founder of the Tea Party Express, announced his support for amnesty on Wednesday, reversing his organization’s statement from a year ago that it would not take a position on immigration reform. If you take a look at Russo’s background, this isn’t exactly the revelation that some in the media are making it out to be. What’s interesting, though, is the dichotomy between Russo’s position and the principles of the organization he helped to create.
The Tea Party Express bills itself as anti-establishment, but Russo’s immigration proposal is nearly identical to the principles pushed by GOP House Leaders -- John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Paul Ryan -- back in January. While most Conservatives scoffed at those principles, Russo warns that if they don’t act, immigration reform would take the shape of the “misty-eyed ideals of some of the liberal do-gooder reformers.” This is strange seeing that if you simply changed the byline of Russo’s op-ed in Roll Call to Sen. Chuck Schumer, no one would notice the difference.
Even though it’s buried in the second-to-last paragraph, Russo expresses his unequivocal support for amnesty (even though he doesn’t want you to call it that). He calls for the legalization of 11 million illegal aliens once they pay a penalty, pay their taxes, learn English, and undergo a background check. Contrary to many House Republicans, he doesn’t even block illegal aliens from eventual citizenship; instead, he says he opposes a “special path to citizenship that puts them in front of people who waited in line.” That’s a creative way of describing Schumer’s plan that creates a special path to citizenship after the 4 million foreign citizens waiting in line receive their green cards.
The Tea Party Express calls for a return to Constitutional principles, but Russo seemingly has no issue with rewarding illegal aliens whose first act in the United States was to defy the very document his organization fights to defend.
Another principle of the Tea Party Express is to restore American prosperity, which to many Americans likely means individual prosperity. But Russo joins the business elites, the GOP establishment, the Gang of Eight, Pres. Obama, and 99% of the Democrats in Congress by calling for increases in foreign worker visas. When scoring Schumer’s amnesty bill, the Congressional Budget Office found that its increases in foreign worker visas combined with amnesty would depress wages for American workers, increase unemployment, and reduce GDP per capita over time. Is that the kind of American prosperity that the Tea Party Express and Russo stand for?
The Associated Press called Russo’s comments “notable”, while other reporters wrote about the significance of his coming out party. But if one knows Sal Russo, this is really no surprise. In the 1980’s, he started a political consulting firm in California where he helped his “close friend” Jack Kemp during his 1988 presidential run. That’s the same Jack Kemp who advocated for both the 1986 and 2006 amnesty bills. It’s the same Jack Kemp who had Cesar Conda, Marco Rubio’s chief of staff, serve on the board of his think tank, Empower America, that employed Paul Ryan. If that’s not enough, Russo also consulted John McCain during his 2008 presidential run. Russo’s open-borders, pro-amnesty ties run far and wide.
If you visit the Tea Party Express’s website, you’ll see that they’ve just endorsed Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama in his re-election bid. Ironically, Sessions spoke with The Daily Caller earlier this week and argued against the very position that Russo is taking. Sessions called for fewer work visas and more enforcement, saying voters are “pleading with their political leaders to end the lawlessness in immigration, to create a policy that serves the national interest, and to protect them from excess labor flow that pulls down their wages and may cost them their job.”
Maybe Russo should start taking cues from a Senator that his organization actually endorses instead of Chuck Schumer.