The Nativist Institutional Response
Unlike the grassroots anti-immigrant groups who quickly joined the Tea Party, the national nativist institutions were slower to respond.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, always leery of their own grassroots, initially kept its distance from the Tea Party. The first time FAIR started to get involved in a Tea Party event, they pulled out. FAIR had initially a signed on as a “bronze” sponsor of the Tea Party Nation convention in Nashville in 2010, and was scheduled to give a nativist workshop at the conference. They abruptly abandoned the convention, however, apparently concerned that the for-profit status of the Tea Party Nation could jeopardize FAIR’s 501c3 non-profit status. FAIR staff also expressed anxiety about the possibility of funds from the convention being funneled to political candidates.
After seeing several of their peers successfully get involved with the Tea Party during 2010, FAIR tried again in 2011. FAIR deployed at least three different field staff to speak to Tea Party groups and expand the reach of the Nativist Establishment inside the movement. FAIR regional field representative, Joyce Mucci, spoke at Tea Party events in Baton Rouge, Tampa and at Inverness, Florida. FAIR’s National Field Director, Susan Tully, became a member of the Tea Party Patriots. She spoke at a Tea Party meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, and in September 2011 she conducted meetings with Tea Party groups in California. Robert Najmulski, FAIR’s Northeast field representative, spoke at a meeting of the Arian, Michigan 9-12 Project on January 13, 2011, the Greater Boston Tea Party on August 2, 2011, and the Lorain County (Ohio) Tea Party on November 12, 2011.
FAIR’s board has also gotten involved. James G. McDonald, a member of the FAIR board of advisors and head of the Virginia Coalition for Immigration Reform, became a member of the Patriot Action Network. Former FAIR board member Peter Gadiel, president of 9-11 Families for a Secure America joined the 1776 Tea Party.
Unlike FAIR, NumbersUSA has historically been less skittish about involvement with its grassroots. (That might be one reason why NumbersUSA founder Roy Beck spoke at a white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens meeting in 1997). Indeed, of all the beltway institutions of the Nativist Establishment, NumbersUSA has most aggressively pursued the Tea Party.
When FAIR pulled out of the aforementioned Tea Party Nation convention, NumbersUSA replaced them and used the opportunity ramp up their presence in the Tea Party. They announced that they hired an official Tea Party “Liaison” to interface with Tea Party leaders and speak about its cause at Tea Party rallies.
There have been areas of disagreement between NumbersUSA and some Tea Party factions, however. Particularly Tea Party Nation was opposed to E-Verify legislation—which would require employers to electronically verify immigration status of new hires. NumbersUSA supported it.
Despite this disagreement, NumbersUSA work in the Tea Parties has been significant and effective. For instance, In April 2010, the NumbersUSA “Local Power team” handed out more than 10,000 anti-immigrant fliers in Boston and Washington. Chad MacDonald, the NumbersUSA Tea Party liaison has been credited with working closely with the national staff of Tea Party Patriots to coordinate their efforts in helping to defeat the federal DREAM Act.
The growing proliferation of materials from FAIR, NumbersUSA, and other groups of the Nativist Establishment amongst local Tea Party groups serves as another sign of expanding reach inside the Tea Party movement.