Last week, Republican National Committee member Jim Bopp unveiled a resolution to deny funding of candidates who do not uphold right-wing conservative values. The “purity test” is based on the mantra of former President Ronald Reagan. Yesterday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pointed out that, despite the fact that Reagan supported a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, the purity test refers to his position as “amnesty” and is explicitly opposed to it. Guest and tea party operative Dick Armey indicated that he doesn’t believe the anti-immigrant language should have been included:
BLITZER: Well, there’s one, number five, that jumped out at me, because they make a big deal about Ronald Reagan. “We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants.”
Ronald Reagan supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, as you’ll recall.
ARMEY: I understand that, and it’s one of the most controversial issues out there. If you take a look at the list though, the primary component, parts of the list, the majority are fiscal issues. And the fiscal conservative center of American politics is what they are trying to reach out to.
So, I know they have to have issues like amnesty and they have some other issues, but I would prefer not to have had done.
Far from being directed at the “fiscal conservative center,” the purity test draws a line in the sand between moderate Republicans and the Party’s rabid right-wing faction. While Armey generally subscribes to ultraconservative orthodoxy, he has long been opposed to anti-immigrant fear mongering — referring to xenophobe, former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), as the “cheerleader of jerkiness in the immigration debate.” He’s also pointed out that building a fence along the U.S. – Mexico border is not a good Latino-voter outreach strategy for the GOP and has instead proposed privatizing the US immigration system to allow in immigrants who love liberty and are willing to obey the law.
Harsh immigration policies also aren’t good for Armey’s pocketbook or his right-wing movement. In 2006, Armey’s lobbying firm started getting paid by the Senado de Republica (Mexican Senate) to “enhance U.S.-Mexico relations,” specifically on immigration policy. Furthermore, only 9% of Republican voters cite immigration as one of their top issues and 89% of Republicans support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legalization. Armey’s Tea Party movement may be made up of nothing more than the GOP’s lunatic fringe, but his tea parties were still far better attended than the puny “copycat” protests orchestrated by anti-immigrant groups.
In 1986, Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) which put millions of undocumented immigrants on a path to legalization and encouraged many Latino voters to embrace the Republican Party. Though George W. Bush won a big chunk of Latino voters in 2000 and 2004, the GOP lost most of its Latino supporters in 2008 after right-wingers killed a 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill with lies and vitriol.