Recently, tea party profiteer and FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey has taken a more vocal stance against anti-immigrant rhetoric. In an interview with Charlie Rose that aired late last week, Armey went as far as to list former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) as representing part of the “tea party tent” that he feels “uncomfortable” with due to his “harsh and uncharitable and mean-spirited” immigration positions:
ARMEY: I tell you, I was for example not really happy to see Tom Tancredo calling himself a tea party guy.
ARMEY: His harsh and uncharitable and mean-spirited attitude on the immigration issue.
ROSE: But what do you say to that? Do you speak out against that?
ARMEY: Absolutely have, and I’ve taken a lot of heat for it too. But first of all, we’re a nation of immigrants and a wonderful tradition. People have marched with their feet to America looking for freedom. Our biggest problem in immigration is we have a dysfunctional INS. If the government would do its job with some degree of efficiency —
ROSE: So the enforcement idea is what you would like to see more?
ARMEY: I mean look you drive by any INS office in America, and the one I see is mostly in Dallas, Texas. At 5:00 in the morning you see a line of four blocks long of people who want to be here and be here legally that are having the window slammed in their face and callous indifference by an inept agency.
In 2006, Armey referred to Tancredo as the “cheerleader of jerkiness in the immigration debate.” Nowadays Armey has to worry about Tancredo associating himself and his immigration jerkiness with a movement that Armey credits himself with creating. Tancredo isn’t Armey’s only problem. The anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has started urging its members to attack Armey’s immigration position and make their voices heard. According to ALIPAC, Armey has been fighting to “keep the illegal immigration issue out of the Tea Party movement.”
Armey shouldn’t be surprised. The Southern Poverty Law Center warned that hate groups and “nativist extremists” would begin exploiting the anger of tea baggers in an effort to recruit more hateful supporters. While it might seem that Armey would be glad to receive tea baggers of any kind, the long-term viability of the right-wing movement largely rests on its ability to embrace a more inclusive immigration approach and score much-needed political points with the growing Latino electorate. The majority of Americans, including Republicans and independents, support a solution to the nation’s broken immigration system that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Chances are, many would also be turned off by ALIPAC and Tancredo’s impractical “deport them all” strategy and nativist vitriol.
As he identified other groups he’d like to see kicked out of his tea party tent, Armey also described the LaRouchers as “an embarrassment” and the John Birch Society as “historically” having a “good deal of people that have regretted them.”