Last week, Lamar Smith held a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee to markup his E-verify legislation, HR 2885, also known as the Legal Workforce Act.
For Smith and a broad cross-section of the anti-immigrant movement, getting E-verify legislation passed is priority #1 for the remainder of 2011. Initially, this piece of legislation caused some division within the movement, but those individuals – Kris Kobach and Mark Krikorian chief among them – have since closed ranks. The major players now support of the bill in chorus. However, though the bulk of the anti-immigrant scene is standing with E-verify, the Tea Party, usually their staunch ally, is mounting strong opposition to E-verify en masse.
On September 15, an open letter to Congress was delivered, calling on members to reject E-verify on the grounds that it “amounts to National ID Card.”
One of the letter’s signatories was Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, one of the largest Tea Party factions in the country. Other Tea Party organizations such as the Republican Liberty Caucus, the Liberty Coalition, and the Kitchen Table Patriots also signed onto the letter, which is steeped in nativist paranoia. For example, apparently E-Verify “poses a threat to both the Constitution and every law-abiding citizen of this country.”
All this in mind, the standout name on the list of signatories is without a doubt Judson Phillips and his Tea Party Nation.
Since its inception, Tea Party Nation has maintained a strong relationship with the anti-immigrant movement—NumbersUSA, in particular. At the Tea Party Nation’s first conference in 2010, NumbersUSA were a sponsor and also a presenter. During its presentation, NumbersUSA also encouraged Tea Party Nation activists to appoint an immigration expert within each of their individual groups. NumbersUSA has also tabled at many Tea Party events over the past few years. Even in its blogs, authors have written about “the efforts made by NumbersUSA to gain the support of Tea Party supporters.”
It seems, however, that NumbersUSA believes so ardently in the importance of E-Verify that the group is willing to forsake such a powerful movement.
This is especially interesting, as NumbersUSA has long “graded” political candidates, rewarding those most anti-immigrant with A+’s. It also relies heavily on such politically motivated far-right activists to provide the lobbying muscle they like to flex before all they deem too “pro-immigrant”—which is basically anyone and everyone.
In the past, NumbersUSA has attacked organizations and politicians for not taking up harsh anti-immigrant positions. Earlier this year, it ran TV ads in Richmond, VA, in an attempt to pressure Rep. Eric Cantor. In the press release to announce the ads, NumbersUSA president Roy Beck stated, “The Republican leadership team has been in charge of the US House of Representatives for seven months and done nothing to change immigration policy to benefit jobless Americans.”
It will be interesting to see if this Tanton Network mainstay will decide to turn on Tea Party Nation for projecting such loud opposition to E-verify.
Undoubtedly though, burning a bridge with one of the largest Tea Party factions in the country in an attempt to pass a piece of legislation may prove a huge misstep for NumbersUSA and the larger anti-immigrant movement.