Last week, Congressman Lou Barletta announced the formation of a new Caucus in the House, the “112th Congress Immigration Reform Caucus.” In his release, Barletta stated that the Caucus was being formed to “address the problem of illegal immigration in this country.”
Barletta, the former mayor of Hazelton, PA, gained national attention for his attempts to implement anti-immigrant ordinances in the town. Barletta was helped in this quest by the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and its legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). Both organizations were founded by white nationalist John Tanton. Even though the ordinance ended up costing well over $2 million dollars in legal fees, it helped turn Barletta into one of the leading figureheads within the anti-immigrant movement in the United States. Barletta capitalized on his new found fame by running and winning a seat in the US House in the 2010 midterm elections.
From the outlook, Barletta’s new Caucus looks very similar to the two other major anti-immigrant Caucuses in the House today, namely the Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC) and the Reclaim American Jobs Caucus. IRC was founded by anti-immigrant politician Tom Tancredo in 1999. The Caucus is now run by former FAIR lobbyist Brian Bilbray of California. Bilbray, like Lou Barletta, sits on FAIR’s board of advisors. The Reclaim American Jobs Caucus was founded last year by Reps. Gary Miller, Sue Myrick and Lamar Smith. In its inaugural event, representatives from all three major anti-immigrant groups in the country, FAIR, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA were featured speakers.
Both IRC and the Reclaim American Jobs Caucus work directly with anti-immigrant groups to block attempts to implement comprehensive immigration reform while simultaneously pushing draconian anti-immigrant legislation.
Barletta’s new Caucus is the latest in a long line of Congressionally endorsed nativism. The major difference between Barletta’s Caucus and the other two mentioned, however, is that Barletta’s will consist of only freshman members of Congress. The three major anti-immigrant organizations have noted that their 2011 goals include targeting freshman members of Congress to promote anti-immigrant positions. Just last month, NumbersUSA announced plans to launch a major spring campaign. One of the key components of the campaign is to encourage its members to “educate” freshman members of Congress on immigration issues.
The ongoing relationship between our Congress and the anti-immigrant movement at-large must be heavily scrutinized. Organizations with ties to white nationalists such as FAIR, NumbersUSA and CIS cannot be permitted to influence the decisions of members of Congress, period. The national immigration debate requires solutions that focus on inclusion, not the reactionary rhetoric of political extremists and white nationalist hardliners.