Tea Party Labels John McCain An ‘Illegal Immigrant’ in an Effort to Provoke Hatred Against Undocumented Immigrants
On Tuesday, the Tea Party website ‘Tea Party Nation’ put out an article that labeled Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) an “illegal immigrant” because he had sneaked into Syria to visit rebels fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Although the White House was aware of McCain’s Syrian visit, the article indicated that his visit was virtually the same as undocumented immigration. It also noted that McCain’s humanitarian support for rebels could be attributed to his lack of intelligence, and Democratic turnout for his unsurprising win in the Arizona Senate race.
The characterization of McCain is just one incident in a long series of efforts by the group to unjustifiably incite hatred against undocumented immigrants. While the Tea Party is ostensibly meant to represent true American virtues, it’s better known for its outlandish values that border on racism, particularly when it comes to immigration. Tea Partiers have deemed pejorative phrase “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” a “fair” phrase, even when it is not applicable in many instances. For example, in the latest gubernatorial race in Virginia, Terry McAuliffe was portrayed as an “undocumented Virginian” even though he had lived twenty years in the state.
Some major newspapers like the New York Times, the LA Times, and the AP have dropped the use of “illegal immigrant” from its coverage of undocumented migration. Immigration advocates view the phrase as offensive, citing that “no human being is ‘illegal,’ drop the I-word.” Yet Tea Party organizations have hardly budged.
The definition that Tea Partiers give for an illegal immigrants is “someone who sneaks into another country… even if they do not stay long.” Although the Tea Party has had a long history of describing undocumented immigrants as “illegal” and “invasive,” it sometimes does so in particularly inaccurate ways, such as last Thursday’s article headine, “Obama Meets In Oval Office With Illegal Aliens.” In actuality, Obama was meeting with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, who, through executive action, are actually lawfully present in the U.S. In the past, Tea Partiers have asked the public to detail their encounters with illegal aliens, like if they are “showing racist posters” — something which the Tea Party is itself not immune from doing.
In pandering to Tea Party advocates, some politicians are in fact hurting progress more than anything. Across many issues, Republican senators have quietly shifted their concerns to appease Tea Party supporters. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), for example, has shifted towards a Tea Party-style concern for states’ rights, when it comes to the ability of American children of undocumented immigrants to recieve federal benefits.