Tea Party activists go out of their way to insist that they’re not partisan, racist, or filled with hate; they’re just patriots who want to stop a “socialist” government machine from controlling their daily lives.
The new immigration law in Arizona should be ripe for the Tea Parties to take up. SB-1070 is the “broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations,” giving police unprecedented power to detain anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant and making “the failure to carry immigration documents a crime.” Even traditionally far-right figures like former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee have worried that the law might lead to racial profiling abuses by the government.
But as the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson notes, this Tea Party support hasn’t materialized:
Activists for Latino and immigrant rights — and supporters of sane governance — held weekend rallies denouncing the new law and vowing to do everything they can to overturn it. But where was the Tea Party crowd? Isn’t the whole premise of the Tea Party movement that overreaching government poses a grave threat to individual freedom? It seems to me that a law allowing individuals to be detained and interrogated on a whim — and requiring legal residents to carry identification documents, as in a police state — would send the Tea Partyers into apoplexy. Or is there some kind of exception if the people whose freedoms are being taken away happen to have brown skin and might speak Spanish?
Not only are Tea Partiers not speaking out against SB-1070, they’re actively supporting it. The Arizona Tea Party Network called on its members to support Brewer’s big government. In fact, the sponsor of SB-1070 is state Sen. Russell Pearce (R), a Tea Party backer.
According to a new survey directed by University of Washington political scientist Christopher Parker, white Tea Partiers tend to be “predisposed to intolerance,” pointing to a possible reason the movement has been reluctant to join with immigration reform activists:
For instance, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement committed to reining in what they perceive as big government, and fiscal irresponsibility, also appear predisposed to intolerance. Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.
Also, if Tea Partiers really do feel like they’ve been taxed enough already, they should support immigration reform. As Andrea Nill has reported, “In January, the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress found that legalizing undocumented immigrants through comprehensive immigration reform would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue within three years. The study predicted that ultimately the benefits of immigration reform would go beyond pure tax revenue and would yield at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years.”
What would Arizona’s revered libertarian icon, Barry Goldwater, say about a law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person with whom they have made “any lawful contact” and about whom they have “reasonable suspicion” that “the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?” Wasn’t the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa?