Tea Party groups rallying in support of Arizona immigration law

Anti-illegal immigration groups that oppose policy reform efforts that include amnesty for undocumented workers are organizing rallies around the country and in Phoenix to take place during the first full week of June. Voice of the People USA and Tea Party Patriots Live are coordinating organizing efforts with help from Americans for Legal Immigration PAC. The groups aim to demonstrate support for Arizona’s tough new immigration laws and also push a campaign called “Americans Shopping in Arizona,” which will encourage Americans to travel to Arizona and spend money there to combat any financial hit caused by the boycotts that followed passage of the new law.

In a press release the groups write that they are “announcing historic mega rallies in Phoenix Arizona and around the nation June 5 through June 12.”

“We want Arizonans to know that the rest of America stands with our fellow countrymen and help is on the way to support them and to support the brave Americans who passed SB 1070,” said Dan Smeriglio of Voice of the People USA.

“I’m happy to see the Border Security movement and the Tea Party Movement working together on this project,” said Phil Russo host of the Tea Party Patriots Live radio show. “This will be a great week for Arizona and a great week for America.”

The move is notable in part because it signals that the tea party movement and the so-called anti-immigrant nativist movement may be coming together against the wishes of many national tea party figures, chiefly those of FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey. Armey has suggested that welcoming nativist rhetoric into the tea party movement could poison its fiscal-conservative small-government message. Armey said undocumented immigrants are “good people” just “trying to feed their babies.”

Certainly any brand association with Americans for Legal Immigration Reform PAC comes with risk. According to the Southern poverty Law Center, ALIPAC is supported by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has been designated a hate group by the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. ALIPAC’s William Gheen, however, denies any connection to FAIR. “I challenge you to provide one shred of evidence that is true,” he wrote to the Colorado Independent, which is investigating the alleged link.*

Gheen makes news regularly for his reaching fiery rhetoric. Speaking at a Houston Tea Party event in April, he lumped pro-immigration reform politicians and illegal immigrants together, calling them liars and cheats engaged in a coordinated globalist plot to transfigure the nation– to commit “grand theft nation,” as he put it.

In fact, nativist organizations have been targeting the tea party movement for months, looking to draw on its power. ALIPAC announced in March that it planned to direct thousands of calls to Senate Republicans to oppose any coming reform legislation and organize “Tea Party Against Amnesty” events to be held across the nation.

Likewise, in a March strategy session, the anti-immigration group NumbersUSA asked members to “leave off the Hispanic-Latino stuff” in attempts to win over tea party activists. Better would be to refer to immigrants as “welfare queens” with lots of “dependents” rather than babies.

“One piece of information would be, they aren’t babies, they’re dependents. Don’t use “babies.” It’s emotional to them. They have dependents. We have babies.” said one of the callers in suggesting how to frame the debate for tea partiers.

Past polling, at least, has suggested the tea party movement generally places low priority on immigration. An April Winston Group survey found movement members were primarily motivated by economic and fiscal concerns.

Edit note: This post was updated after Gheen wrote in denying the ALIPAC-FAIR connection. The update referenced SPLC as the source of reports of the alleged connection. Further updates to come.

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