New Latino Immigrants Join Tea Party

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June 1, 2011; Source: Roll Call | Roll Call has discovered immigrants from Ecuador, Colombia, Cuba, and Honduras as active members of Tea Party groups in Northern Virginia. In some cases, they are running for office draped with Tea Party political themes and identities. Roll Call also includes someone from Puerto Rico in the list, though Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but the point is that some Latinos in northern Virginia, where there has been a spate of anti-immigrant legislation (which we’ve covered here at NPQ), are aligning themselves with the Tea Party.

It is both a politically and ethnically broadened perspective on the Tea Party. For example, the website promoting realtor (and Puerto Rican) Jo-Ann Chase’s candidacy for the Virginia Assembly mentioned her past role as a delegate for Oliver North’s run for the U.S. senate, but omitted her apparently still current role as the Loudon County coordinator for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Chase may be a self-identified Tea Partier, but Romney doesn’t seem to fit the Tea Party profile.

Other Latino immigrant Tea Party candidates include Ecuadoran immigrant Lolita Mancheno-Soak who is running for the county school board in Fairfax, and Colombian immigrant Tito Munoz who is running for the state senate. Some of the Latinos quoted in the Roll Call article sound like many other more typical Tea Partiers. One Cuban immigrant said, “Most Hispanics who come to this country…to flee socialistic and oppressive regimes [and] they are some of the most vibrant members of the tea party.” An immigrant from Honduras criticized Democrats as “regressive” rather than progressive, adding “what is immoral to me is standing there with my hand out waiting for the government to support me.”

It says something about the Tea Party, some of whose activists may be realizing that there is no future in becoming the 21st century version of the nativist Know-Nothing Party of the 19th century which was organized to fight against the influx of Irish and German immigrants. The Tea Party’s most prominent national support organization, Bill Archer’s Freedomworks, started an effort last month in Texas to diversify the composition of Tea Party activists there. They know that even with the virulence of the opposition of some people to the influx of Latino immigrants, in the end anti-immigrant platforms – social movement or no – are bad politics. –Rick Cohen