Whenever the basic human rights of immigrants, or of any unpopular ethnic groups, are put in danger, the rights of the country's majority citizens are likely to come under attack too. The world saw this in Europe during the first half of the 20th century, and is still seeing it in many places today.

It is now happening in America. In at least two ways, the actions of the House Tea Party Republicans in shutting down immigration reform so far can be looked at as the prelude to a larger shutdown, in which Americans as well as immigrants are the victims.

In the immediate sense, the refusal of House Republicans who are either Tea Party supporters or are scared of being "primaried" by the Tea Party even to consider voting on legalization or eventual citizenship for 11 million immigrants without legal status is aimed at deporting them all - every last brown-skinned man, woman and child. In the same way, the Tea Party's government shutdown is intended to deprive 30 million less affluent Americans and legal immigrants of the right to health insurance - which for many can mean the right to live.

This past Wednesday, in Philadelphia, I was riding in a taxi on the way to an immigration interview and I got into a conversation with the driver, an immigrant from Haiti. I asked if he had become a US citizen and he said that he had. He added that if he had not become a citizen, he would not be alive today.

He explained that had been suffering from colon cancer, and that the fact that he was a US citizen made him eligible for certain medicaid benefits which paid for the operation he needed to save his life.

There are countless other stories where access to health insurance, or lack of it, means the difference between life and death for immigrants and Americans alike. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in first shutting down CIR and then shutting down the federal government over the Affordable Care Act, the Tea Party's goal is deportation for millions of immigrants, and risking death for millions more immigrants and Americans who cannot afford health care.

But this is only the Tea Party's superficial goal. Its basic objective is even more destructive, namely to shut down America's democracy. John Dean was Richard Nixon's White House Counsel, and eventually went to jail for trying to protect his boss (who should also have gone to jail but was pardoned instead) in the Watergate scandal four decades ago.

Having in been instrumental in helping Nixon with the Watergate coverup, in one of the most serious and well publicized governmental abuses in US history, John Dean is now one one of the leading experts in recognizing abuse of power by politicians and has become a modern day Cassandra, warning about new and even worse abuses ever since. Like Cassandra's voice, his often goes unheard.

Three years ago, he warned that the Tea Party was planning to shut down the government as part of a larger assault against America's democracy. His OpEdNews Article: The Tea Party's Apparent Willingness to Shut Down the Federal Government and What the Consequences May Be appeared on November 12, 2010, but it reads as if it had been published yesterday. It makes chilling reading.

Dean begins:

"As the recent [2010] mid-term elections progressed toward their culmination, and in their immediate aftermath, one theme clearly emerged for the Tea Party movement's success. They are ready to shut down the federal government to enforce spending discipline. While choking government operations by fiscal inaction is outrageous, we have all been warned that extreme behavior is the Tea party's norm."

He continues:

"This tactic operates with about the same finesse as those used by Mexican drug lords...

"Threatened shutdowns are political tantrums, and thus a form of extortion. If such behavior is rewarded, it will only become more frequent and demanding."

He also writes:

"The tactic of threatening the shutdown of, or actually shutting down, the US government by withholding funding will not be found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. In fact, it is a brazen abuse of power..."

The bottom line: It is time now to plan for the bad behavior that will be coming to Washington with the Tea Party movement, and to recognize the high stakes that will be involved when they threaten to shut down the government."

Perhaps if John Dean's warning three years ago had been taken seriously, there might not be a government shutdown today, with all the disruptions it is causing in crucial immigration programs which depend on the US Department of Labor such as PERM Labor Certifications and H-1B, as well as through anticipated delays in visa issuance at overseas US consular posts, not to mention many other types of hardship affecting immigrants and US citizens alike.

The point of all of this is that a government shutdown, not to mention the companion and even more dangerous threat of refusing to raise the debt ceiling, go far beyond the purpose of achieving any specific goal, such as "defunding" the Affordable Care Act. Shutdown, like terror, is dangerous because it is a tactic. It can be used for any purpose.

Suppose, for example, that the current situation with the ACA somehow gets resolved, and that (even more unlikely), CIR passes in the House and reaches the president's desk despite fierce Tea Party opposition. What would there be to stop the Tea Party fanatics in Congress from shutting the government down again over legalization or a "special" pathway to citizenship for 11 million people?

This is why it would be so dangerous to give the Tea Party Republicans who caused this shutdown even an inch in any negotiations. Next time, they might not settle for anything less than a mile - 11 million of them.

Most ominously of all, tactics such as a shutdown or refusal to raise the debt ceiling are designed to make America ungovernable by throwing the political system and economy into a state of total chaos. This also happened in Europe in the first half of the last century, and as we all know, it led to the replacement of democracy by another form of government, whose name is familiar to everyone.

If the Tea Party fanatics and their sympathizers in Congress succeed in overthrowing our democracy, which is becoming more and more apparent as their ultimate purpose, this could be a "solution" to all of America's immigration problems: no one would want to come to live in this country any more.

Posted by Roger Algase, Attorney at Law.