Tea Party Express co-founder Sal Russo said Thursday that he supports the immigration position put forward by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and defended himself against charges that he supports Democratic plans to have non-U.S. workers take jobs from unemployed Americans.
Russo spoke on the Laura Ingraham show Thursday, a day after he wrote an op-ed for Roll Call that led some conservatives to criticize Russo for appearing to side with Democrats on immigration. Among other things, Russo cited statistics from Partnership for a New American economy that said the U.S. needs to import more high-skilled workers, and said the U.S. needs to find ways to keep high-skilled non-Americans who are educated in America.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., left, has campaigned against the Senate immigration bill as something that would depress wages for U.S. workers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Ingraham pressed Russo on these points, which prompted Russo to say he supports Sessions fully.
"I totally agree with Sen. Sessions," he said on the radio show.
Sessions has been making the point for the last week that the Senate's immigration bill would bring in millions of new workers who would compete with jobs with millions of unemployed Americans. On Wednesday, he argued that this change would push down wages and cited a report saying wages would only start rising for some workers after 2025.
"If you bring in more labor, you'll have lower wages for American workers," Sessions said on the Senate floor.
Russo said he agreed with that, and stressed that he has "no use" for the proposal supported by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and others.
But he did stress that Republicans need to find some way to deal with immigration. His Roll Call op-ed suggested assessing penalties on illegal residents, requiring them to learn English and not cutting in front of others who are trying to apply for legal status.
On the radio show, he added other ideas.
"I would love to have Sen. Sessions and Mike Lee and Ted Cruz write an immigration bill that, as I said in my op-ed, put Americans' just interest as the primary criteria," he said.
"We should get rid of these country quotas. We should get rid of the diversity requirements. We should have in our country who we think should be in here and control our borders like every other country does."
Sasso's comments, however, left Ingraham doubtful. "You can say you're with Jeff Sessions, but I imagine if I called Sessions up now and asked him after reading this op-ed you wrote, are you with Jeff Sessions, I think he would say no, no and no," Ingraham said.
The headline of this story was corrected at 6:30 a.m. Friday to note that Russo is a co-founder of the Tea Party Express, not the Tea Party.