What Would The Boston Tea Party Revolutionaries Make Of The Modern Tea Party Movement?

Published December 16, 2015
Updated January 24, 2018
Published December 16, 2015
Updated January 24, 2018

On Immigration

Tea Party Defeat Amnesty

A present-day Tea Partier says exactly what he thinks about amnesty programs in the U.S. Image Source: Flickr

If there’s anything modern Tea Partiers are more emphatic about than taxes, it’s closing the borders. According to a 2012 CBS poll, 82 percent of Tea Party activists see illegal immigration as a “serious national issue,” which tracks well with the stated positions of most Tea Party groups. Again, TeaParty.org offers this insight on its list of Non-Negotiable Beliefs, Item 1: “Illegal aliens are here illegally.”

The Tea Party consensus seems pretty firm: pass laws against unrestricted immigration, enforce the laws on the books, and deport the undocumented immigrants who get caught here. All of which, interestingly, puts the modern Tea Party at the exact opposite side of the issue from the Founding Fathers.

The Declaration of Independence was, in a nutshell, a proclamation of the rights of man, followed by a list of grievances against the king, ending with an announcement of the political split between England and the 13 colonies. Item seven from that list of grievances:

“He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”

This was not an aberration from the general sentiment, which openly favored unrestricted immigration from all over the world. From the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9:

“The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”

This section is an explicit 20-year ban on federal blocks to immigration. During the 1790s, as people in several states began agitating against immigration, legislatures were persuaded to impose a punitive 14-year waiting period on immigrants seeking naturalization. Thomas Jefferson addressed this in an 1801 speech to Congress, which made his position as clear as could be:

“I cannot omit recommending a revisal of the laws on the subject of naturalization. Considering the ordinary chances of human life, a denial of citizenship under a residence of fourteen years is a denial to a great proportion of those who ask it. . . And shall we refuse the unhappy fugitives from distress that hospitality which the savages of the wilderness extended to our fathers arriving in this land? Shall oppressed humanity find no asylum on this globe?”

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.