Tea Party Dabbles in Immigration Politics

New America Media, News Report , Marcelo Ballvé Posted: Feb 05, 2010

The Tea Party movement has energized activism against President Obama’s vision for immigration reform.

The link between tea partiers and immigration politics developed last summer, when the impact of illegal immigration on the health care system became a prominent side issue in town hall debates.

Since then, illegal immigration has steadily gained ground on the Tea Party agenda.

Immigration “is one of our main issues in the state of North Carolina,” said David DeGerolamo, co-founder of Tea Party group NC Freedom, in a phone interview. “And what it comes down to is that the United States is a republic based on the rule of law. What part of illegal is right?”

DeGerolamo is scheduled to give a talk today on “How to Unite State Tea Party Groups” at the National Tea Party Convention, which began yesterday in Nashville.

The Nashville event has devoted a good share of its spotlight to activists devoted to promoting get-tough policies against illegal immigrants and blocking White House plans to offer a path to legal status for the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants.

These activists label such legislation as amnesty, and they helped derail a similar effort in 2007 that had the backing of then-President George W. Bush.

Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado congressman whose signature issue was illegal immigration, was yesterday’s kick-off speaker at the Nashville convention, which is headlined by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Tancredo served 10 years in the House beginning in 1999, but gained widespread notoriety in 2002 when he called for the deportation of an undocumented honors student after a newspaper wrote about his inability to gain in-state tuition for college.

Also leading a session at the convention is NumbersUSA, a Washington, D.C. organization that advocates for lower immigration levels.

In the Tea Parties, groups like NumbersUSA discovered a new opportunity to spread and amplify their message, said Devin Burghart, who tracks the Tea Party movement from Seattle for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

“It has become far more common for Tea Party groups to discuss the topic of undocumented immigrants at events and on their websites,” he said. “In terms of their long-term planning it is clearly becoming a part of their agenda.”

Of course, the links between hardline immigration activists and tea partiers don’t necessarily add up to a united front on immigration.

With a movement as fractured, fast changing and diffuse as the tea parties, it’s difficult to establish a clear idea of activists’ views on a single issue.

“Immigration is not a part of the movement's ‘platform,’” Keli Carender, a prominent Tea Party blogger, wrote in an e-mail to New America Media. “I'm sure every person involved in the movement has their own personal views on immigration, and though they may be espoused from time to time, they … may not be representative of anyone else in the movement.”

Individual candidates linked to the Tea Party movement, however, have embraced the illegal immigration issue.

Judge Roy Moore, who is running as a conservative in Alabama’s 2010 governor’s race and will speak in Nashville, has made immigration one of the five topics covered in his platform.

Moore is known for his refusal as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state courthouse.

“Definitely, he’s against illegal immigration,” said Moore spokesman John Wahl. “There are a lot of things that can be done. There's things like making the official language [in Alabama] English. That's just common sense when you think about it.” Moore also supports state laws to penalize undocumented immigrant workers.

Moore's support for establishing English as an official language in Alabama is part of a wave of similar "English first" proposals that have caught on in state houses and city council chambers, in part thanks to the efforts of anti-illegal immigration activists. The issue has caught on with tea partiers, too.

For example, “official English” made a strong showing in the “Contract from America,” a document being prepared online with input from tea partiers nationwide. The contract will signal the Tea Party movement’s policy priorities ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.

Of the various immigration policy proposals submitted, “An Official Language of the United States” won the most votes. And it ranked eighth overall—higher than interstate health insurance competition and just below a proposal to end lifetime salary and benefits for members of Congress.

The contract, which will be finalized this spring, has won praise from former House majority leader Dick Armey who heads FreedomWorks, the Washington, D.C.-based conservative group that has promoted Tea Party activism.

In the Florida Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat, Tea Party-fueled upstart conservative Marco Rubio has been pressed to take a more vocal stance against illegal immigration as he tries to steal the primary away from sitting Governor Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican.

Javier Manjarres, 37, a Colombian-American conservative activist in South Florida, uploaded a video on YouTube Jan. 26 in which he grills Rubio on immigration and reminds the candidate of his opposition to “any form of amnesty for immigrants who have broken federal law and stayed in our country illegally.”

The video was meant to showcase Rubio’s views on illegal immigration after conservatives who accused him of being soft on the issue had heckled the candidate at a forum in Broward County, Manjarres said. “I think he just had to become more vocal. I think he’s always had these views. He just never really had to defend them.”

“Immigration is huge” with the Florida Tea Partiers, said Manjarres, who heads his own Ft. Lauderdale-based organization, Conservative Republican Alliance, and moves in conservative and Tea Party circles. “Everyone knows what’s at stake there. The immigration issue will be as big as health care. “

Manjarres’s organization was among the first to endorse Rubio’s candidacy.

In Martin County, Fla., north of Palm Beach, the Martin 9-12 Tea Party Committee lists “enforcement of immigration laws,” along with limited government and lower taxes, as one of its conditions for candidate endorsements.

The tea partiers’ connection to immigration was forged last summer and fall, when the health care and immigration debates fused at Tea Party events and protests. One such event was an August town hall event in Raleigh, N.C. organized by DeGerolamo, NC Freedom’s co-founder.

Two of the four invited speakers were prominent immigration restrictionists: William Gheen, head of Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC) and John Armor, a lawyer associated with the American Civil Rights Union.

On YouTube videos of the event, Gheen warns the tea partiers about Obama’s “massive amnesty” plan to legalize undocumented immigrants, and both Gheen and Armor describe the problem of “anchor babies.”

Immigration restrictionists have long alleged immigrant mothers enter the country illegally to give birth on U.S. soil so that their children will have citizenship and eventually, through family reunification visas, be able to pass legal status to the rest of the family.

At the same Aug. 26 town hall, Ada Fisher, Republican National Committeewoman for North Carolina, earned a loud round of applause for this statement criticizing federal laws requiring multilingual medical interpreters: “You cannot be one nation under God when everyone’s speaking something different.”

Not everyone agrees that Tea Party organizing has begun exerting a significant influence on the immigration debate at a national level.

Tamar Jacoby, a conservative who heads ImmigrationWorks USA, a pro-immigration business group, agrees that tea partiers may take up immigration in earnest in the future. But for the time being, she sees them still in an early stage of organizing and far more zeroed-in on limited government and fiscal issues.

And the Tea Party movement’s allies in the political establishment, Republicans like Armey of FreedomWorks and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, still have a chance to influence the course Tea Party activism will take on issues such as immigration, Jacoby said. “Leadership will matter. What Palin and Armey say will be very important.”

Palin and Armey are hardly firebrands on the immigration issue.

Armey, as Jacoby pointed out, is an “old friend” of immigration reform. Armey has spoken out about making the system “more orderly” but “not more restrictive.”

Palin’s position on immigration is still hazy. In a recent interview on the Glenn Beck program she said, “I think Republicans, conservatives are at fault when we allow the other side to capture this immigration issue and try to turn this issue into something negative for Republicans,” she said, according to a Fox News transcript.

Palin stressed immigration laws should be followed, but added, “We need to continue to be so welcoming.”

Whatever the ultimate Tea Party effect is on immigration politics, candidates and elected officials often come to recognize there is a political cost to taking hard-line stances, said Stephen Fotopulos of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

Fotopulos cited the example of Harold Ford, Jr. who ran “sensationalist ads about being tough on illegal immigrants” when he ran for statewide office in Tennessee. Now, Ford is campaigning for U.S. Senate in New York, where the immigrant vote is powerful.

“We will see those ads again, used against him,” said Fotopulos.

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User Comments

JonnyAmerican on Feb 06, 2010 at 19:40:17 said:

Mike on Feb 05, 2010 at 07:51:51 said:
"I know many undocumented immigrants who are not criminals ( being illegally in US is civic violation not criminal).Many of them educated and highly skilled. They occupy low paid jobs"

Not a criminal eh? It is a FELONY to work in the U.S. if you are not a legal citizen or have a working visa. Not only that but a large percentage of the illegal aliens who come here committ many crimes including stealing peoples SSN#'s and identity, dealing drugs, rape, murder, robbery and child molestation, yea don't forget that one, they TARGET our children!!!! I post illegal alien articles all day long every day of the year and not a week goes by before some illegal rapes a child. These people need to be deported or thrown in jail, and the advocates of criminals like Mike here are just as bad, they are the type of people who will make excuses for illegals regardless of the cost of life and limb, they may as well be committing the acts themselves.

JonnyAmerican on Feb 06, 2010 at 19:28:39 said:

Mike on Feb 05, 2010 at 07:51:51 said:
"I know many undocumented immigrants who are not criminals ( being illegally in US is civic violation not criminal).Many of them educated and highly skilled. They occupy low paid jobs"

Not a criminal eh? It is a FELONY to work in the U.S. if you are not a legal citizen or have a working visa. Not only that but a large percentage of the illegal aliens who come here committ many crimes including stealing peoples SSN#'s and identity, dealing drugs, rape, murder, robbery and child molestation, yea don't forget that one, they TARGET our children!!!! I post illegal alien articles all day long every day of the year and not a week goes by before some illegal rapes a child. These people need to be deported or thrown in jail, and the advocates of criminals like Mike here are just as bad, they are the type of people who will make excuses for illegals regardless of the cost of life and limb, they may as well be committing the acts themselves.

lsjogren on Feb 06, 2010 at 17:40:44 said:

"If you really believe in limited government, then we ought to let anyone come here."

Only if you are such a strong believer in limited government that you believe the United States should cease to exist as a sovereign nation.

DaveT. on Feb 06, 2010 at 11:41:28 said:

We've heard your and the Libertarian silly and inconsistent talking points before.

If you truly believe in limited government (and lower taxes), you will oppose "guest worker" "comprehensive" etc. amnesty schemes, all of which are in fact extremist and properly rejected by the vast majority of Americans.

As the 2007 Heritage Foundation study found, amnesty would impose a net burden of at least $2.6 TRILLION on American taxpayers.

Obviously, legalizing millions of low-skilled illegal aliens would entitle them to even more taxpayer-funded programs and further grow government.

And the "fruit picking" argument has been debunked. Even the WSJ journal has reported on Americans lining up for farm work. Farms also need to mechanize, and to stop relying on human slave labor.

Mike on Feb 06, 2010 at 10:48:35 said:

Most immigrants, legal and illegal, pay taxes. If you really believe in limited government, then we ought to let anyone come here. At least the libertarians are consistent. I'm a moderate and support Bush's guest worker program or some variant of it.

Oh, and I assume you Tea Partiers are boycotting fruits and veggies right? Hey, instead of paroling to borders, why don't you organize some vegetable picking brigades? Not afraid of a little hard work are you?

DaveT. on Feb 06, 2010 at 10:31:46 said:

For goodness sake, please stop calling illegal aliens "undocumented" and "immigrants," of which they are neither. We all know they have plenty of documents, mostly fraudulent.

I'm a tea party activist, and everyone I speak with in the movement strongly disagrees with Dick Armey's pro-illegal alien, pro-amnesty stance.

If Armey (and Palin) peddle "comprehensive" amnesty, they know their credibility will be destroyed and they will be ostracized by Tea Partiers -- as well as conservatives and independents outside of the movement.

Pro-amnesty ethnocentric and cheap labor interests should accept and realize that the vast majority of Americans will NOT now or ever accept any further amnesties.

So New American Media and other pro-illegal alien media outlets should focus their energies on protesting corrupt governments such as Mexico who refuse to reform and help their OWN citizens.

Delaware Bob on Feb 06, 2010 at 06:57:24 said:

I'm a proud member of 9-12 Delaware Patriots and we would like to see our immigration laws enforced along with other things like stopping all the spending, stopping "CAP and TAX", Stopping the socialized medicine. WE talk about the expense of the medical care these illegal aliens get, all FREE. We talk about the BILLIONS sent out of this Country every year by the illegal aliens, and how that hurts our economy. How many hospitals have closed because of the illegal aliens? Was it 48? We have 16 million Americans out of work right now and 12-20 million illegal aliens in this Country right now. There is something wrong here.

When is our Federal Government going to ENFORCE the immigration laws and get these people back to their own Country? You can't deport 12-20 million people you say? TAKE AWAY ALL THE BENEFITS, E-VERIFY IS ALL BUSINESSES AND CHECK ALL EMPLOYEES! MAKE STIFF FINES FOR HARBORING AND TRANSPORTING ILLEGAL ALIENS. This is a start to get these illegal aliens to go back to their own Country, and last, END THIS BIRTH-RIGHT CITIZENSHIP!

Gene/Nelson on Feb 05, 2010 at 23:17:59 said:

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Gene/Nelson on Feb 05, 2010 at 23:16:10 said:

There are around 27 million Americans who are either unemployed or underemployed (Department of Labor U-6 rate). Greedy, selfish employers are apparently hiding behind the "diversity" propaganda to maintain their docile, high profit margin workforce with many illegal aliens. One of the big stories hidden behind the public relations push is that illegal aliens only occupy low-skill, low paying jobs. WRONG!! As several studies have clarified, about 1/2 of today's illegal aliens entered the U.S. on a valid tourist, student, business, or work visa. They overstayed their visa, which makes them a lawbreaker. See for example, the March, 2008 CIS Backgrounder by David Seminara, "No Coyote Needed." (Please google the title and select the PDF version.)
Many visa overstayers hold white-collar jobs, excluding Americans from these good jobs.

Maybe you don't believe that big "high tech" firms like Microsoft do not profit from this illegal workforce. Well, why then would they support an employer organization that opposes passage of the SAVE Act, which would eventually mandate the use of E-Verify for all employers? (E-Verify eliminates illegal aliens from the workforce.) See the PDF version of the February 27, 2008 letter to House Speaker Pelosi. Note the corporate sponsors on the left margin of this letter includes Microsoft and its proxy, the Business Software Alliance. See CompeteAmerica.org, choose "from the Hill and the Administration", then "Letters to Congress and the Administration" - scroll down to February 27, 2008 and select the PDF version.

During the Great Depression, there were bloody, lethal riots caused by the lack of access to jobs for the middle class. One of the factors causing massive unemployment before and during the Great Depression was the so-called "great wave" of immigration early in the 20th Century. The riots got the attention of the leaders of government and industry. There was a unique partnership that led to the forced repatriation of about 1/2 million people who were not citizens of the U.S., which created workforce opportunities for Americans. Google both phrases "Great Depression" and "forced repatriation" to learn more. There were 6,320 links on 06 February 2010.

Groups such as CAPS estimate that there are approximately 40 million illegal aliens. Think what a stimulus effect would be caused by passing the SAVE Act of 2009, H.R. 3308, now with 106 cosponsors. Citizen empowerment organizations such as NumbersUSA are advocating for this common-sense legislation. The NumbersUSA website features many no-cost powerful tools to press for immigration reforms that would free up many jobs for American citizens.

Ivan on Feb 05, 2010 at 13:54:16 said:

The Teabeggars are on the wrong side of history and demographics...in about 5 years, 90% of them will be dead due to old age. A comprehensive immigration reform is a matter of when not if. Billy Bob, once again, is on the wrong side of both history and demographics, he just doesn't know it yet :-)

christoinferno on Feb 05, 2010 at 10:55:43 said:

Let me get this straight... Legal = Right?

Then the Tea Party folks must be supporters of abortion. Because abortion is legal.


TheTownCrier on Feb 05, 2010 at 10:41:07 said:

Tea Partiers need to shed themselves of DICK ARMEY!!! HE is all about NAFTA, and all cheap labor agreements and all FOR AMNESTY!

YOU are being used! Get rid of him now, AND Sarah Palin who supports McCain's amnesty!

ALL polls indicate people want enforcement NOT more immigration, NOT 'path to citizenship'...check out all the visas, etc. We allow 4 million plus LEGAL entrants per year! HOw many do you want???

Truth on Feb 05, 2010 at 10:12:59 said:

The economic case is clear. Immigrants who become citizens consistently pursue higher-paying jobs and higher education, spend more and provide higher tax revenue. Just imagine what 12 million newly documented Americans could do for the economy. The legalization process also brings economic benefits like the retention of remittances. Reform will reunite families separated by our immigration system and keep monies in the U.S., instead of having workers send substantial portions of their salary to their family members abroad. As an example of the potential, U.S. remittances to Latin America alone totaled almost $46 billion in 2008. Of that, Mexico received almost $24 billion. Reducing remittances offers an obvious potential cash infusion for our economy, as billions of dollars currently being sent overseas would instead be spent in American shops and restaurants, creating jobs and helping to get our economy going.

nativessayno on Feb 05, 2010 at 09:58:44 said:

Immigration restrictionists? Smug term for citizens that do not and will NOT abide foreign nationals protesting against us and pretty much assume they make up their own rules in my country.

Ms Jacoby is so astute...but not really.... Has she looked at the blogospere on the subject of her illegal immigrants?

Reality check...she is as relevant as a mullet hairstyle. November is a game- changer and citizens of all party's and backgrounds will register their serious "restrictionist" agenda; Tea Party or platform not material.

We will be doing more than dabbling.....pay attention and get ready. Does Tamar get out much from her ivory tower? Her contempt for the "little people" citizen's is withering, but ultimately meaningless.

Red herrings abound but the groundswell of opposition to CIR etc is, and will be formidable and pro-illegal alien factions will NOT muster or garner any successes.

I foresee huge waves of deportation-through- attrition and by 2012 tough measure implemented to throw the remaining "undocumented" out.

Illegal immigrants do not call the shots...nor have they ever...they just thought they do. Wrong.

Did you notice how may citizens can't get employment but 8 million foreign nationals butted into our workforce? Small details like this do not escape the citizenry and the MSM's tiny violins about woebegone "undocumented" actually breed contempt.

They can have La Raza-speak 24/7 as they see fit back in their own country.

Tom Franks on Feb 05, 2010 at 09:33:31 said:

These \"tea baggers\" are hilarious, judging by the pictures on the papers the convention would be more appropriately called \"the national in-bred convention\".
I never saw so many confused white trailer trash together in my life.
I guess is good for the economy that Fox news, Palin and many others are becoming rich, profiting from these people gullibility. On the other hand giving false hope to these people is almost like committing fraud. Oh well! they deserve each other.

l00ker on Feb 05, 2010 at 08:50:56 said:

Anyone advocating for, aiding and abetting illegal immigration is a traitor, and doesn't belong in our country nor should be provided any form of civil protections.

Mario Ramos on Feb 05, 2010 at 08:07:42 said:

As a Hispanic immigration lawyer in Nashville many people ask me how immigrants view the Tea Party being held today in Nashville. So I have decided examine where we see eye to eye on the issues.

At the Tea Party Nation (TPN) website they state the TPN are "a group of like-minded people who desire our God given Individual Freedoms which were written out by the Founding Fathers. We believe in Limited Government, Free Speech, the 2nd Amendment out Military, Secure Border and our County!".

So let compare and contrast;

Well, Hispanics in the US are a like minded group united by food, languages, music, culture etc.

God; most Hispanics believe in god and are catholic; isn’t this the same?

Limited Government; Hispanics have been seeking a reduction in immigration enforcement/incarceration/deportation for decades. Hispanics want to get immigration off the back of immigrants. There are hundreds of thousands of Hispanics in jail in the U.S under immigration charges. Undocumented Hispanics receive NO benefits from the Federal/State government. The restrictions on government benefits extend to legal spouses of undocumented. In a way Hispanics are living a life of limited government that TPN cannot dream of in their wildest limited government dreams.

Free Speech; yes, except for hate speech directed towards advocates of immigration reform and minorities.

The 2nd Amendment; the right to bear arms; Here I will digress into my personal story. My father was from Colombia, South America and was an avid gun enthusiast. My childhood consisted of visiting every gun club in the South of the US. So my opinion is distorted on this issue as I believe in the right to bear arms but do not believe most people should carry a gun. It is extremely difficult to shoot a gun well. If you have not shoot a gun over 25,000 times do not call me about my opinion; keep on practicing.

Our military; around 10% of the military is Hispanic, next;

Secure Borders; Hispanics strongly support comprehensive immigration reform which will free up resources which are misdirected towards deporting tax paying undocumented workers. The current situation is like the prohibition of alcohol which was a failure and lead to widespread organized crime; it is interesting how history repeats itself;

Our Country; As part of the largest minority in the US I am amazed at the civility of Hispanics during the current state of enforcement which is as sever as apartheid ever was in South Africa as per the President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Bernard Woldsdorf, who is originally from South Africa.

Anita on Feb 05, 2010 at 07:52:41 said:

The Tea Party movement better make illegal immigration part of their platform if they are against government spending like they say. Illegal aliens in this country cost taxpayers $346 billion dollars a year. That's a trillion dollars every 3 years. That's a bank bailout or a stimulus bill every 3 years. If Congress is allowed to pass immigration reform, that's another $2.4 trillion to implement. Illegal aliens are draining the resources in this country and it needs to stop. Enforce our laws!

Mike on Feb 05, 2010 at 07:51:51 said:

I know many undocumented immigrants who are not criminals ( being illegally in US is civic violation not criminal).Many of them educated and highly skilled. They occupy low paid jobs only becouse lack of documents.Legalize them , force them to pay taxes,fine them and use these money to finance modern immigration system , let them go to schools , let them work legally , let them get higher education, let them buy houses, cars , appliances , furniture e.t.c., let thme built their future and life in America, let them spend money they have here,not in other countries. It's good for them , it's beneficial for America.
Don't be closed minded , let's be smart. Reform our outdated immigration system NOW.It's good for country and for all Americans. Thanks

l00ker on Feb 05, 2010 at 06:20:56 said:

The ultimate cost will be civil war if these border criminals and grifters aren't rounded up and thrown out of our country. And these traitorous enablers of these illegal parasites in our country will pay the highest costs.

steve/smith on Feb 05, 2010 at 04:08:46 said:

What is the argument here? every single alien "BROKE THE LAW!" Our Government, past & present, Republican & Democrat, have allowed the invasion of 20 to 30 million criminals and uneducated peons which is the largest invasion of any Nation, at any time, by any means & in direct violation of Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution.

This refusal to abide by our Constitution or enforce our Immigration Laws should be classified as Treason of the most foul kind, & as grounds for impeachment & trials for Treason!

Not only have they allowed the invasion, they force American tax payers to pay Billions on Billions of dollars to provide Welfare, Prison cells, Educate the invaders numerous children, and free medical care, at the same time the invading horde break numerous laws and massive document fraud, & are destroying our schools, hospitals, communities, culture and standard of living while Robbing, Raping, Killing & Assaulting American Citizens WAKE UP PEOPLE!

roth/stein on Feb 05, 2010 at 00:58:20 said:

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