History and Immigration Reform: The Tea Party Gets It Wrong Again

U.S. Census Bureau
Not what the Tea Party expected.
As I predicted, some form of immigration reform is getting closer to passing. It likely won't be comprehensive, but the establishment GOP is feeling like they aren't beholden to the crazies in the Tea Party who only know one thing about "illegals": let's build a big fence and kick them all out.

This is not palatable to Democrats, needless to say, and the GOP leadership sees that the "ideological purity" of the Tea Party is not a path to victory in 2016. The Hispanic vote is too important.

And let's step back a minute. As you can see from the graphic above, where most Mexican-Americans -- whom we usually associate with immigration -- live now, live in locations that America annexed. That is a euphemism for the Mexican-American War of 1848. Put another way, most "immigrants" lived in Mexico before our "Manifest Destiny" schooled us to take Mexico.

This is an historical reference that gets passed over in the current debate. But it's important: the anti-immigration zealots in the Tea Party are old(er), white males (by and large). And their concern isn't history -- presuming they're aware of such -- but a irrational xenophobia combined with a falsely-held belief that immigrants are somehow taking American jobs. What is probably worse, the Tea Party tells us that immigrants must be schooled in "American values" (read the values of the white Christian conservatives) to be afforded a path to citizenship.

Yes, kicking the Tea Party may seem like a tired exercise in political discourse. But they have wreaked havoc, in both Washington, D.C. and state capitols, to say nothing of the fact that many of their political priors are pernicious on a political and moral level. Even Rick Perry thinks you don't have a heart if you have issues with the DREAM Act. Perry got booed at the GOP debate when he said this. Lesson: Perry may have a heart; the base of the GOP does not.

Finally, contrary to the Tea Party's revisionist history, America is not built on the ideas of "fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets." This is not just bad history, it is tendentious political clap-trap. For all their paeans to history and the Founding Fathers, the Tea Party would do well to study the whole of American history, particularly the Mexican-American War. Even the tin man eventually found his heart.

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The base of the GOP isn't all Tea Party, but it does make GOPers nervous about being primaried.  (True, a high profile race like Liz Cheney versus Mike Enzi shows the limits of Tea Party popularity, but House races are a different animal.)  So there's the core of the concern from GOPers in office.

johnnybench topcommenter

Yeah but the tin man actually wanted to find a heart. 

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