These Tea Partiers Aren’t Anti-Immigration. They Just Want to Close the Border.

Charles S. Clark
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Charles S. Clark
July 24, 2014, 6:18 a.m.

Na­tion­al Journ­al re­cently vis­ited Green­ville and Spartan­burg to ex­plore the changes hap­pen­ing in up­state South Car­o­lina. In the com­ing weeks, Next Amer­ica will pub­lish a series of stor­ies about the people who are shap­ing this con­ver­sa­tion.

SPARTAN­BURG, S.C.—The crisis along the Mex­ico-United States bor­der is rais­ing alarm more than 1,300 miles away in up­state South Car­o­lina. Mem­bers of the Spartan­burg Tea Party watch the news closely, won­der­ing what the in­flux of im­mig­rant chil­dren could mean for their state. They don’t want any more un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants mov­ing here.

“We’ve got to edu­cate them, we’ve got to feed them, we’ve got to take care of them,” says Bill Con­ley, a high school so­ci­ology teach­er, at the tea party’s monthly meet­ing in Spartan­burg. “It just over­whelms the sys­tem.”

Con­ley, 44, says he sees the im­pact of il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion at the school where he works in nearby Cher­o­kee County. The rur­al area is known as South Car­o­lina’s “Peach Cap­it­al” be­cause of the large num­ber of orch­ards there, which rely on mi­grants to har­vest the fields. The chil­dren of these work­ers from Mex­ico and Cent­ral Amer­ica at­tend nearby schools, and some end up in Con­ley’s classes. He said they struggle with the lan­guage and the ma­ter­i­al, and ex­tra teach­ers have to come in and help them.

“It’s very hard to in­cor­por­ate them in­to the class,” he says. “They’re not really sure what’s go­ing on, they don’t really un­der­stand the lan­guage.”

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has enough buses to pick up un­ac­com­pan­ied chil­dren at the bor­der, Con­ley says, so they can bus un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants back out. If any­thing, Con­gress needs to think about sim­pli­fy­ing the pro­cess to enter the United States leg­ally, he says.

Not all his fel­low tea parti­ers share this view. Kar­en Mar­tin, 56, who foun­ded the Spartan­burg Tea Party, says she’s open to the idea of of­fer­ing leg­al status to some un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants if they pay back taxes and serve in the mil­it­ary. One thing Mar­tin and the rest agree on is this: No re­form un­til the bor­der is closed.

“Right now, the bor­der is pretty much nonex­ist­ent,” says Mar­tin, who works as a freel­ance ed­it­or for a trade-man­age­ment com­pany. She says she didn’t care about polit­ics un­til the hous­ing crash crippled the eco­nomy sev­er­al years ago. It en­raged her to see the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment use tax money to bail out the cor­por­a­tions that caused the melt­down. She wor­ried that her coun­try was headed down the wrong path, she says, so she cre­ated the loc­al tea-party group in 2010. At first, it was just a web­site with in­form­a­tion about polit­ic­al can­did­ates who shared her views on the need to lim­it pub­lic spend­ing and shrink gov­ern­ment. Six months later, Mar­tin began hold­ing meet­ings at a loc­al lib­rary.

Now the group has about 660 mem­bers, and sev­er­al dozen of them meet each month at the Su­per Clock Res­taur­ant in East Spartan­burg. They eat bur­gers and drink sweet tea, open­ing each meet­ing with a pray­er and the Pledge of Al­le­gi­ance. They usu­ally fo­cus on state and loc­al is­sues, such as wheth­er the county should al­low li­quor sales on Sundays.

It’s not a ra­cially di­verse group—every­one at the Ju­ly meet­ing was white. But the mem­bers do rep­res­ent sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions and so­cioeco­nom­ic back­grounds: en­gin­eers, a col­lege stu­dent, a tire sales­man. All are fight­ing to make South Car­o­lina more con­ser­vat­ive. It’s an up­hill battle, says Mar­tin, be­cause Re­pub­lic­ans here are too mod­er­ate. “South Car­o­lina is not con­ser­vat­ive,” she says. “It’s just a facade.”

Mar­tin and her col­leagues are still reel­ing from the tea party’s re­cent fail­ure to re­place Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., with a con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­an who won’t com­prom­ise on is­sues such as im­mig­ra­tion re­form. They also think that loc­al evan­gel­ic­al pas­tors push­ing for “am­nesty” are mis­in­ter­pret­ing the Bible for polit­ic­al pur­poses.

“The [Bible] says, give what be­longs to Caesar, to Caesar, and what be­longs to God, to God. So it’s telling us to fol­low the law,” says Thomas Dims­dale, a 23-year-old tire sales man­ager and act­ive tea-party mem­ber. Dims­dale says he didn’t in­ter­act with many im­mig­rants grow­ing up in Spartan­burg, but he wel­comes leg­al im­mig­ra­tion and thinks it be­ne­fits the com­munity. He works with a Filipino man and sees how sim­il­ar their cul­tures are. They be­lieve in strong fam­il­ies and low taxes, and many are evan­gel­ic­al Chris­ti­ans, he says.

“I’d love to in­vite them in­to the tea party,” Dims­dale says. “If not, then at least to the Re­pub­lic­an Party, be­cause there’s a lot of com­mon ground that they don’t real­ize we have, and I hope we can see it too.”

What We're Following See More »
CITES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration for FBI Job
2 days ago
THE LATEST
MINIMUM 2 PERCENT GDP
Trump Tells NATO Countries To Pay Up
2 days ago
BREAKING
MANAFORT AND FLYNN
Russians Discussed Influencing Trump Through Aides
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Source:
BUT WHITE HOUSE MAY USE AGAINST HIM ANYWAY
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Source:
BUSINESSES CAN’T PLEAD FIFTH
Senate Intel to Subpoena Two of Flynn’s Businesses
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."

×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login