Yesterday, the anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC sent out an email blast urging its members to comment on a video clip of a 2007 speech by FreedomWorks chairman and tea party operative Dick Armey. The group chides Armey for supporting “AMNESTY for illegal aliens” and accuses him of fighting to “keep the illegal immigration issue out of the Tea Party movement.” In the taped remarks ALIPAC forwarded, Armey sympathizes with undocumented immigrants:
I’ll tell you something — I don’t run stop lights. But you put me on the road at 2am on the way to the all-night drugstore to get medicine for my babies and give me a stop light that is stuck on red and no traffic in sight, and I’m going to go through that red light. Cause feeding my babies and taking care of them is more important than obeying the law.
And if you take a look at these very good people here, they’re trying to feed their babies. And if you got an agency in the federal government that’s dysfunctional, then they’re going to go across that border illegally because they’re gonna feed their babies — bless their heart...My general attitude is if you love liberty, and you’re willing to obey the law, and you’re trying to feed you’re babies, then you should be welcome in this country. That is not always a popular view…there’s a meanness about this border discussion that is very unsettling to me — it’s unkind, it’s disrespectful.
Armey’s message doesn’t go over well with a group that has extensively documented nativist ties. The Center for New Community describes ALIPAC as being “characterized by hysterical fear-mongering and xenophobic, anti-Latino conspiracy theories.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that ALIPAC “is supported by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, and allied with various Minuteman factions.” ADL accuses ALIPAC of promoting “virulent anti- Hispanic and anti-immigrant rhetoric” and “adopting the tactics and rhetoric of racist groups and moving it into the mainstream.”
However, ALIPAC may be right that Armey and others are going out of their way to prevent anti-immigrant forces from co-opting to the tea party movement. Recently, conservatives have been grappling with an internal debate on how to approach the immigration issue. While many remain hostile towards immigrants, Armey likely belongs to the camp of conservatives who are urging their members to adopt a more inclusive immigration approach that will likely score much-needed political points with the indispensable Latino electorate. However, Armey can’t control the fact that groups like ALIPAC associate themselves with tea baggers. And as long as Armey takes credit for organizing tea parties, he must also be held responsible for the nativist extremists who SPLC warned would begin exploiting the tea party anger that Armey helped foster in an effort to recruit more supporters to join their hateful cause.