Tea Partiers Take Stake in Immigration Debate

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PHOENIX - The majority of Americans support Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration and Tea Party organizations played a big role in getting the law passed.

When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law, Kelly Townsend says she was grateful. Townsend is president of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party.

"Our group... worked very hard to help persuade the legislators to vote yes on this bill," she explained. "We're very much in support."

The new Arizona law requires state and local police to question a person's immigration status during a police stop for another offense, if there's probable cause.

Opponents of the law say it will lead to racial profiling, putting a bullseye on Hispanics. Townsend said that's not true.

"It's not about the race. It's about your legal status here in this country," she said.

The Greater Phoenix Tea Party president explained that the new law is also about financially rescuing Arizona.

"I think the Tea Party is very much [about] state sovereignty and the rights of the state, and we recognize this is an issue," Townsend said. "Arizona is in such a crisis. The amount that we're spending compared to the amount that we're bringing in -- the disparity is mind-boggling, and a large part of that is due to the programs for the illegal aliens."

Townsend added that the Tea Party is about fiscal responsibility. She questions how responsible it is to pay for programs for illegal immigrants who don't have the rights of the Constitution. Arizona Rep. David Gowan, Sr., agrees.

"We lose over $2 billion a year to illegal immigration," he said. "That's incarceration, education, and hospitalization.

Townsend said the money to secure the border isn't there because Arizona's budget is in crisis.

"I think Arizona really needs prayer. We've got a lot of things going on," she said. "[Prayer] for steadfastness and also mercy for people. We understand that God loves these people just as much as He loves the citizens."

But also, she added, "God requires us to follow the laws of the land."

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.