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Tea Parties Getting Off Message?

The Influence of Tea Parties

Tea Party patriotismThe modern Tea Party movement began in 2009 as a grassroots reaction to excessive spending and unprecedented government growth.  The first protest began in Fort Myers, Florida when Mary Rakovich organized a few people to protest Obama's stimulus bill.  In the first month alone, Tea Parties sprang up in 40 different cities.  And when tea party favorite Scott Brown won a seat held by Democrats for nearly half a century, the major media was forced to recognize the Tea Party as a major political force. 

Tea Parties have remade the political landscape.  They're established in every state in every county.  And when government thought they could plow them over with rash spending, the political primaries have already proved them wrong.  But don't let the political pundits fool you, the country is not in an anti-incumbent mood; they are in an anti-spending mood.  If you look at the incumbents who have lost in recent primary elections, they were politicians that either supported bank bailouts, the stimulus bill, or Obamacare - all of which required big payouts.  Even Republicans who voted for TARP were tossed on the ear by Tea Party activists.

There is a substantial momentum behind the Tea Party movement, but if they get off-message, it could destroy the movement from the inside out.  If, for instance, Tea Parties begin to take on social issues like gay marriage, abortion, and teenage pregnancies, it would not only water down their message, it would make them virtually indistinguishable from the Republican Party.  The appeal of tea parties isn't real because they mirror the GOP platform, but because fiscal restraint and government accountability cross party lines and ideological barriers.

Tea Parties and Immigration Reform

In April of this year, the Washington Independent ran a story that the Tea Party movement has slowly started to shift its focus toward illegal immigration.  A group called "Tea Parties against Amnesty" recently organized over 50 protests across the nation, and they are reaching out to members of tea parties that share their commitment to border security and reinforcing existing immigration laws.

There are two ways of looking at Tea Parties Against Amnesty; they are either a group composed of real tea party protesters that opted to join an anti-immigration movement, or they are an anti-immigration movement seeking to ride the coat-tails of the Tea Party.  From all indications, it appears that Tea Parties for Amnesty is doing the latter.  Let's take a look at these indications.

First, Tea Parties against Amnesty is spearheaded by an organization called "Americans for Legal Immigration".  It's somewhat disappointing, yet not entirely surprising, that the Washington Independent failed to point out that Tea Parties against Amnesty is a splinter group of Americans for Legal Immigration.  In fact, William Gheen, the President of Americans for Legal Immigration is also the Director of Tea Parties Against Amnesty.  The real question is why Gheen created a splinter group at all.  Perhaps there wasn't enough support for his anti-immigration organization.  Perhaps it's easier to peel off members of tea parties by creating another organization that bears the tea party name brand.

Second, as alluded to above, it appears that Americans for Legal Immigration are attempting to harvest members from tea parties to promote their cause.  They made an announcement that reads,

"Some of our diverse ALIPAC supporters are not fans of the Tea Party movement, however, they understand that 90% of Tea Party supporters oppose illegal immigration and amnesty with us. Most understand that we need broad coalitions to stop amnesty and reverse illegal immigration.

Some, unfortunately, are buying into the massive negative propaganda assault on the Tea Party movement. All we will say about that right now is that the Tea Party folks are not violent and not racist. They are being attacked in the same way our Border Security Movement has been attacked. They are being attacked because the powers that favor elite rule in America want to stop and divert the political revolution that is growing in America today. "

There are two things that jump out at me in these two paragraphs.  First, they attempt to merge their immigration movement with tea parties by finding a common enemy.  The message they are sending to tea party members is that the enemy of my friend is my enemy as well.   And second, after defending tea parties from accusations, they concede the need to build broader coalitions in order to stop amnesty.  They might as well tell tea party members they are better off merging in order to defend themselves against the liberal left.


And third, tea parties are premised on the principles of fiscal restraint, smaller government, and reduced taxes for future generations.  You will not find any legitimate tea party that doesn't mention these principles on their websites.  For example, Americans for Prosperity is a nationwide Tea Party organization with strong roots here in Wisconsin.  Their mission statement reads,

"AFP believes reducing the size and scope of government is the best safeguard to ensuring individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans  AFP educates and engages citizens in support of restraining state and federal government growth, and returning government to its constitutional limits"

And yet, there is not a single sentence on the Tea Parties against Amnesty's website that refers to fiscal restraint, smaller government, or reduced taxes.  Some would argue that immigration is not a part of the tea party platform, and the fact that there is no mention of illegal immigrants, border control, or amnesty on the website of a well-known national tea party organization gives credence to this notion.

Tea Parties Against Amnesty is not a Real Tea Party

The only reports from media outlets that tie the platform of tea parties to immigration reform are those that quote Republican politicians speaking on behalf of tea parties.  And although tea parties have been reticent to endorse political candidates for office, Republicans are quick to claim "tea party" status for their own campaigns.  But tea parties are starting to understand that the GOP will try to bend the will of their movement to align to their own agenda.  If this were to happen, tea parties would lose their collective identity.

"Tea Parties against Amnesty" is not a Tea Party.  They are a copycat organization that seeks to amass tea party members into their organization even at the risk of harming the message of the Tea Party movement.  And the news media hasn't helped.  Headlines like "Tea Party Dabbles in Immigration Politics" and "Tea Party Movement to Rally Against Amnesty" are either un-researched or deliberately disingenuous.  Establishing links that don't exist does a disservice to truth-seekers and only bolsters the cause of anti-immigrant groups.

If legitimate Tea Parties wish to keep solidarity and protect their name brand, they ought to call out Tea Parties against Amnesty for what they truly are, an anti-immigrant group masquerading as a Tea Party.


Comments (6)
  • John Hyland  - immigration and the T

    Wrong! That has been part of the the tea party since it started.
    Less government, lower taxes, no amnesty, etc,etc,!
    Always has been.

  • Aaron M. Rodriguez

    Right, what was I thinking. Amnesty must be the third leg of the Tea Party - a principle they forgot to publicize until after Arizona's recent immigration law.

  • dad29

    the country is not in an anti-incumbent mood; they are in an anti-spending mood.


    The people I talk to who are NOT part of the 'tea party' movement are SOLIDLY anti-incumbent.

    ALL of the incumbents, not just the (R) or (D) ones.

    ALL of them.

  • Aaron M. Rodriguez


    The only incumbents I've seen that lost were those who that had a record of voting for spending, including those in the GOP who lost. Even the Democrat that out-beat a Republican opponent for Murtha's seat railed against Obamacare.

    And yes, I've run into those who want to toss all the bums out, but I haven't seen those people come through on their word in any of the primaries across the country.

  • William Gheen

    I'm very glad that a majority of America's LEGAL Hispanics support the platform of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC. Polling data and actual votes in Arizona show us most legal Hispanics oppose Comprehensive Immigration Reform Amnesty and support Border and Immigration law enforcement.

    Unfortunately, there will always be Hispanics like Aaron Rodriguez that want to play racial politics to increase their political power. They are willing to increase the number of Hispanic voters even if it means raping the Constitution and the Rule of Law to do it.

    Aaron Rodriguez just made a big mistake and has aligned himself with the open borders Tea Party masters working for the big corporations and lobbyists in DC instead of the 90% of Tea Party supporters that oppose Amnesty.

    I'm glad that I am standing with the 90% of Tea Party supporters that oppose Amnesty while Aaron Rodriguez stands with the very few that disagree.

    ALIPAC helped make the Tea Party movement a success by bringing in a coalition of over 26 immigration enforcement organizations to support the Tea Party events on April 15 and July 4 of 2009.

    Now, almost every Tea Party group in America wants to help fight illegal immigration too.

    To late to put the brakes on that Aaron Rodriguez.

    William Gheen
    President of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC
    Director of Tea Parties Against Amnesty

  • Aaron M. Rodriguez

    Mr. Gheen,

    Thanks for your response. I must say, I think you misunderstood my position on illegal immigration, but more on that later.

    I have a problem with a few of the things you've said.

    First, I highly doubt that the majority of "legal" Hispanics support your platform. If so, I would like to see the poll and the group that commissioned it.

    Second, you make the allegation that I'm for open borders, which I'm not. We agree on the premise that without a secure border, the U.S. cannot properly protect herself from terrorist networks like Al Qaeda and the Taliban let alone drug cartels.

    Third, in regard to your statement that 90% of tea party folks oppose amnesty, I think that most people don't have a clue what is meant by the term. The GOP has misappropriated the term so much that it's meant to apply to any and all pathways to citizenship. The word Amnesty means a "pardon free from penalties or retribution". But the GOP has applied it to legislative proposals that sought to penalize illegal immigrants with fines for breaking the law. If tea party folks knew that opposing amnesty meant rounding up 12-20 million people and shipping them back to their country of origin, they would think twice about your platform.

    Fourth, you are mistaken if you think that almost every tea party wants to fight illegal immigration. As individuals, they may want to see immigration reform that protects the border and has a practical way of dealing with those who are here illegally, but they have not nor intend to make it a part of their tea party platform.

    And Fifth, you have become such an activist for your cause, you cannot see what you are attempting to do to the tea party. Tea parties are powerful precisely because they have a singular focus of fiscal restraint and small government during a time of unprecedented spending and government growth. If you keep adding GOP issues to their platform, you will overburden them and subsequently kill their movement. I'm quite confident that you can make an impact with your organization without creating a phony tea party organization intended to siphon off tea party members.

    Also, I'm glad that you've offered help to various tea parties. Tea parties have an opportunity to steer this nation back in the right direction. But your organization is too extreme because it doesn't provide a middle road for illegal immigrants. Keep in mind that being in this country illegally is only a misdemeanor. And your platform, from what I can ascertain, intends to tear apart their families and ship them home for a simple misdemeanor. Quite humane, sir.

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