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  by  Roy Beck

For weeks, various grassroots leaders of tea parties have been asking NumbersUSA if there is anything to the rumors that former Congressman Dick Armey is soft on amnesty and the costs of illegal immigration. If he were, that would be an unsettling situation for the vast majority of people at tea party events who oppose both vehemently.

Well, today, Dick Armey settled the question. No need for rumors now.

Mr. Armey -- labeled as the "uber-organizer of the tea party movement" by a reporter today -- seems to have labeled as "goofy" most of the grassroots citizens attending tea party events.

Armey showed his disdain in a speech at the National Press Club for all those who oppose comprehensive amnesties for millions of illegal aliens and who oppose importing millions of foreign workers during a time of high unemployment.

But this is in keeping with his record in Congress. (See below for a thorough analysis.)

During his time in Congress (1985-2002), Mr. Armey's positions on immigration almost always appeared to be much more shaped by the desires of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for low-wage labor subsidized by taxpayers than by the needs of the average taxpayer and worker.

Today, Mr. Armey showed that he disagrees with the majority of Republican Members of Congress who oppose amnesty and who call for enforcement to cause illegal aliens to go home:

In language that will likely be recalled in the upcoming debate over immigration, Armey minced no words in condemning Republicans over their stance.

"Who in the Republican Party was the genius who said now that we have identified the fastest-growing demographic in America, let's go out and alienate them? This is a nation of immigrants. ... There is room in America," he said.

-- "Health Care Debate Enters Final Stage," by Andrea Stone, AOL News

In Dick Armey's world, standing up for unemployed American workers and taxpayers against costly foreign-worker competition is alienating to a fast-growing group of voters and, thus, should be avoided.

America's not a nation that builds walls. America's a nation that opens doors, and we should be there.

-- Dick Armey

This kind of attitude while in Congress led Mr. Armey to take immigration actions that earned him a NumbersUSA grade so low that only 10% of Republicans currently in Congress have a worse career report card than Armey's. Take a look here: http://www.numbersusa.com/content/my/congress/915/reportcard

Floating around YouTube are videos of Armey's interesting take on illegal immigration where he compares illegal aliens with a parent running a red light in the middle of the night to get a sick child to the hospital.  Sometimes taking care of your family is more important than obeying the law, he says:

These are very good people trying to feed their babies.

-- Dick Armey explaining in 2007 that the problem of illegal immigration is that the feds aren't issuing greencards fast enough: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaqd1qY1KsM

TANCREDO OR ARMEY: WHICH IMMIGRATION POSITION MORE POPULAR IN THE TEA PARTY

Lest anyone be unclear about where he stands on immigration, Mr. Armey today delivered a resounding condemnation of retired Congressman Tom Tancredo:

"When I was Republican leader, I saw to it that Tom Tancredo could not get on a stage because I saw how destructive he was," Armey said of the anti-immigration former congressman. "Republicans have to get off this goofiness."

It is good that Armey is owning up to what we knew on the inside: Dick Armey used his power as House Majority Leader to promote amnesties for illegal aliens and to block the efforts of "back-benchers" in his Party to combat illegal immigration. Armey is a key reason why it took so long until the majority of Republican votes in Congress became anti-illegal-immigration.

While Armey most likely is sincere in his advocacy for smaller government and lower spending, he clearly makes exceptions for immigration -- which is just another corporate welfare program that forces taxpayers (and workers who compete with the foreign workers) to subsidize the employers.

When Tancredo arrived in Congress in 1999, he could barely get any kind of hearing among Republicans to represent U.S. citizens' rising frustration over illegal immigration. It wasn't until Armey left in 2003 that Tancredo was able to build up his 100-member immigration caucus and turn the House Republican Conference into a bulwark against illegal immigration (although it still has never stood up for U.S. workers against massive legal importation of foreign workers).

TEA PARTY ACTIVISTS HAVE OUT-GROWN ARMEY AND HAVE A MORE PRINCIPLED STANCE

The news media last year elevated Dick Armey and his Washington-based, non-profit advocacy group, Freedom Works, to the status as the power behind the movement because of some money pumped into it.  But a number of grassroots tea party leaders tell me that Armey's role has been much more tangential. They claim that the movement spread like wildfire across the country almost entirely on a shoestring budget of volunteers months before Armey played any significant role.

Armey's aggressive attacks on anti-amnesty activists in recent weeks has many puzzled about what he is trying to do.

But if his idea is to intimidate local tea parties from fighting immigration policies that create significant extra government spending, tea party activist leaders are telling me it isn't going to work. 

As much as some tea party leaders may appreciate some of what Armey has done for the movement, his performance today at the Press Club should serve notice to most of the grassroots that they have to distance themselves as quickly as possible from Armey's strong inclinations toward Chamber of Commerce open-borders politics.

When he makes the statement that the country has plenty of room for massive immigration, it almost sounds like Armey is saying that the tea party movement either doesn't care how much that costs taxpayers, or that he is suggesting there ARE no costs.

My experience with local tea party leaders -- and a number of national ones -- is that they are not at all willing to avert their eyes to the costs of immigration.

Let me pause to say a word about NumbersUSA's relationship with the tea party movement. That movement has no official connections with us nor we with them. The tea parties cannot be held responsible for anything we do, nor can we be held responsible for what they do. We are very different entities with intersecting interests when it comes to immigration policies.

As regular readers of this blog know, NumbersUSA includes large numbers of environmentalists concerned about what immigration is doing to our country's natural heritage, and tea party members concerned about what immigration is costing taxpayers, and social justice enthusiasts concerned about what immigration is doing to the country's poor working classes (especially to Black and Hispanic Americans), and lovers of individual liberty concerned about what immigration is doing to the personal mobility and quality of life in our nation's communities, and many others.

NumbersUSA attempts to inform all these varied groups across the political spectrum as to how immigration affects what they care most about.

So, I have been most pleased to provide information to tea parties across the country about why they can't be true to their principles without addressing immigration. For example, I have made sure that they know that federal government records show that:

  • The U.S. this last decade has been adding a net of about 1.25 million (legal and illegal) immigrants each year to our local communities.
  • 53% of immigrant households with children are so poor that taxpayers have to subsidize them with at least one form of welfare.

Anybody who advocates an open door for immigration is advocating a lot of extra costs. Even setting aside welfare, immigrants have not come close to being able to pay the taxes it takes to provide the extra roads, streets, bridges, water and sewer systems, schools and hospitals to accommodate them without deteriorating the quality of infrastructure and services for the existing population.

The result is mounting pressures for more government, more taxes and more redistribution of incomes.

None of that plays very well with the tea parties' vision. While Dick Armey wants immigration to be treated as a social issue with no place in the tea parties, most of the grassroots in the movement know well that immigration is a huge fiscal responsibility issue that can't be ignored -- no matter how much Mr. Armey's corporate benefactors want the foreign labor to keep pouring in.

CONGRESSIONAL IMMIGRATION RECORD OF DICK ARMEY

Here is his Immigration-Reduction Grade Card: http://www.numbersusa.com/content/my/congress/915/reportcard

Click here to see every single immigration action he ever took while in Congress: http://www.numbersusa.com/content/my/congress/915/gradescoresheet

As part of the House Republican leadership that controlled the U.S. House, Mr. Armey usually tried to resist the efforts of the majority of Republican Members who wanted less immigration and more immigration enforcement. But sometimes when the "back-benchers" were able to force votes on some enforcement measures, Armey tended to vote with them on the floor of the House.

NumbersUSA's computerized system, in weighing all immigration actions taken by Mr. Armey over 18 years, issued him an overall Immigration-Reduction Grade of "C-minus" for his entire career.

The primary reason he got that high of a grade is that he was quite good on immigration in his early years:

IN THE EARLY YEARS: Way back in 1990, Armey voted against a small amnesty.

BUT LATER: Armey voted for other small amnesties in 1997, 2001 and 2002, and he was part of the leadership that pushed these amnesties to a vote. Fortunately, NumbersUSA activists were numerous and forceful enough to stop the 2001 and 2002 amnesties. Mr. Armey left Congress before Pres. Bush's several failed giant amnesty attempts.

IN THE EARLY YEARS: In 1990, soon after arriving, Armey voted against expansions in Chain Migration, the Visa Lottery and importation of foreign workers. These were all pro-worker positions that would have held down taxpayer costs.

BUT LATER: Armey was among a minority of Republicans in 1996 who helped Pres. Clinton kill the legislation of Rep. Lamar Smith that would have eliminated Chain Migration and the Lottery and would have reduced importation of unneeded foreign job competition. Armey's side only narrowly prevailed in the House.

Because of Armey's and the narrow majority's actions in Congress that day, the United States has millions more foreign workers and government-dependent residents today than otherwise would have been the case if the provisions promoted by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) had passed.

When I saw the news media reports that Mr. Armey was playing such a big part in the tea parties last year, I despaired that this was not truly a grassroots movement but would be a tool of the worst of the corporate classes.

Mr. Armey's performance here in Washington today confirmed why my fears were justified.

But if the tea parties continue to attack the fiscal irresponsibility of current immigration policies as being the truly goofy stance, you'll know that they are truly grassroots and that Mr. Armey and all his corporate money don't control them.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

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