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November 26, 2014

Activists Use Extreme Rhetoric in Response to Obama’s Executive Action

A number of anti-immigrant activists and groups used extreme rhetoric in response to President Obama’s executive action on immigration, announced on November 20. For example, William Gheen of the extreme anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) connected the Mexican Civil War with Obama’s executive action in an interview with the conspiracy-oriented website World Net Daily. Gheen stated, “Obama’s choice of this date [November 20 is Mexican ‘Revolution Day’ or Mexican ‘Civil War Day’ which is the equivalent of America’s 4th of July] for his departure from his Oath of Office and the U.S. Constitution creates a permanent symbolic relationship between his actions and Mexico’s violent revolutionary and civil wars from 1910-1920.”

William Gheen

William Gheen

Gheen also circulated a Gary Varvel cartoon that depicted an immigrant family climbing in the window of a house of a white family while they are eating Thanksgiving dinner with the caption, “Thanks to the President’s immigration order, we’ll be having extra guests this Thanksgiving.” Gheen later claimed the cartoon “makes a very important point about illegal immigration, boundaries, the assault on American families and American culture… and the real situation in America. And unfortunately for many American [sic], illegal aliens are literally crawling through their windows!”

A number of activists associated with the extreme anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) also made comments about President Obama’s plan on immigration. When asked on his radio show whether Obama’s actions would lead to ethnic cleansing, Kris Kobach, who is of counsel with Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of FAIR, responded, “And the rule of law used to be unassailable, used to be taken for granted in America. And now, of course, we have a president who disregards the law when it suits his interests. So, while I normally would answer that by saying, ‘Steve, of course we have the rule of law, that could never happen in America,’ I wonder what could happen…”

Ruthie Hendrycks, a FAIR state advisor and head of the anti-immigrant group Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform (MINNSIR), posted a comment on Facebook calling for the families of undocumented immigrants currently in deportation proceedings to also be deported.

FAIR advisory board member and anti-immigrant extremist Frosty Wooldridge, responded to the president’s action in his regular column on the News With Views website by espousing birther conspiracy theories. Wooldridge wrote, “We now face a man in the White House who doesn’t mind breaking our Constitution, paid for with the blood of millions of men and women. In his youth, he chose to smoke pot, do drugs and lie his way through college and into Congress. He lacks any comprehension of what America stands for because he still hasn’t proven he’s an American.”

More extreme elements of the anti-immigrant movement also weighed in on the issue. White supremacist Peter Brimelow, the founder of the racist and anti-immigrant website VDARE called for the impeachment of President Obama. Brimelow also used the November 20th announcement to call for the “immediate abolition” of birthright citizenship.

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June 6, 2013

Black American Leadership Alliance Mobilizing Against Immigration Reform

A group made up of longtime anti-immigrant activists claiming that immigration reform will hurt the African-American community is working on a number of fronts in opposition to the Senate’s immigration reform bill. The group, the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA), recently changed its name from the African American Leadership Council (AALC). black-american-leadership-alliance

Using its original name, the group held a press conference in April announcing its opposition to the Senate’s immigration reform bill. BALA’s members, such as activists Frank Morris and Leah Durant, are closely tied to anti-immigrant groups founded by or with the help of racist John Tanton, the architect of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement. Morris currently sits on the boards of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), both founded by Tanton, and another anti-immigrant front group, Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). Durant is the executive director of PFIR and is a former attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of FAIR. 

Since its initial press conference, the group issued an open letter on June 3 to the Senate’s bi-partisan “Gang of Eight,” the Congressional Black Caucus and senators from states with high rates of black unemployment urging them to acknowledge the “damaging impact mass immigration has on low-skilled workers” and recognize “the harmful impact that S. 744 would have on low skilled workers, particularly those in the black community.”

Many of the signatories of the letter attended and spoke at the group’s press conference in April. One of the signatories, Tom Broadwater, the national chair of the group Americans4Work, appeared as a guest on a webinar hosted by the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA on June 4. During this call, Broadwater stated, “We need our jobs, we need our people, our American citizens to have jobs. Legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, they’re all bad as far as we are concerned for America.”

On July 15, BALA is organizing a “DC March for Jobs” rally in Washington, DC, intended “to help to stop Congress’ amnesty push.” BALA’s website says that the group will “demand that our leaders reject amnesty, and pass immigration policies that put black Americans back to work.” It remains to be seen how many activists BALA can mobilize for the event.

The talking points and tactics BALA is using in an attempt to derail the Senate’s immigration reform bill are no different from the broader anti-immigrant movement. Throughout its history, the movement has created front groups opposed to immigration reform, claiming that it will have a negative effect on minorities.

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February 13, 2013

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) Named Head of House Immigration Reform Caucus

Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) announced on February 7, 2013, that he will chair the House Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC). The immigration restrictionist replaces outgoing chairman Brian Bilbray, who lost his seat in California in November 2012. Founded in 1999 by former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, IRC is the main block of immigration restrictionists in the House.  It is very closely aligned with the anti-immigrant movement.

Poe’s views closely align with the anti-immigrant movement. The Beltway-based anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA give Poe an “A” grade for his voting record on immigration, which indicates that his record is in line with their ideology. In 2010, Poe signed onto an amicus brief in support of Arizona’s SB1070 law, drafted by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the DC-based anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).  Poe has attended FAIR’s annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” radio event in Washington, D.C. The event brings radio hosts to Washington to broadcast live and interview anti-immigrant activists and restrictionist politicians. On November 19, 2009, Poe participated in a forum with other members of the House Judiciary Committee entitled “American Jobs in Peril: The Impact of Uncontrolled Immigration.” Speakers included Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, and Jerry Kammer and Steven Camarota of the anti-immigrant think-tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

The February 7, 2013 press release also announced the members of the IRC Executive Committee: Diane Black (R-TN), Bill Flores (R-TX), Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX). All four Executive Committee members have “A” grades from NumbersUSA.  Lamar Smith and Phil Gingrey have close ties to the anti-immigrant movement. During his tenure as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Smith invited many prominent members of the anti-immigrant movement to testify on immigration issues. Gingrey and Smith are also regulars at FAIR’s “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event. Both men received donations from the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC in the past. Mary Lou Tanton, the wife of racist John Tanton, the founder of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement, runs the PAC.

The Poe press release stated that IRC currently has 58 members, although 77 people who were previously IRC members won re-election in 2012. It is unclear why so many IRC members decided to leave the Caucus, but some may want to distance themselves from the anti-immigrant movement now that immigration reform has become more acceptable to both political parties. IRC’s previous two chairs, Bilbray and Tom Tancredo, a former representative from Colorado, both lost elections, perhaps in part due to their restrictionist views on immigration. It remains to be seen how Poe’s new position will impact voters in his district.

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