“New” Black Anti-Immigrant Group Emerges to Challenge Congressional Black Caucus

The African American Leadership Council (AALC), the latest front group to emerge from the John Tanton network of anti-immigrant efforts, held a press conference Wednesday morning to add their voice of opposition to the recently revealed immigration reform bill.

The group called on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to “protect black labor by opposing amnesty and halting efforts to double legal immigration levels,” reigniting the longstanding debate that progressive immigration reform is bad for African Americans.

The AALC asked the CBC to “recognize the devastating impact that a legalization plan would have on low-skilled labor, particularly in the black community” and to “remember its duty to protect black constituents by acknowledging the damaging impact mass immigration has on low-skilled workers.”

Frank Morris, who leads AALC argues, “They’re [undocumented immigrants] the ones employers have wanted to hire because they can cheat them on overtime and salary and keep them off the books.” He later adds that immigrants are “overwhelmingly taking jobs away from Blacks in three sectors: hospitality services, construction and light manufacturing now and in the future.”

What Mr. Morris does not mention at the press conference or in his follow up interviews,  is the close relationship he has with white nationalist John Tanton – godfather of the modern anti-immigrant movement. Frank Morris is the vice president of the board at Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR); he also sits on the board at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Each of those groups is strongly tied to John Tanton – through  his founding, funding, and/or ideological influence.

Leah Durant, another AALC member, presently serves as the Executive Director of PFIR. She is also a former staff attorney at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which now houses Kris Kobach and his anti-immigrant legislation.

Members of Choose Black America, including Frank Morris (second from the left, back row), Leah Durant (far left, front row), and Ted Hayes (front row, kneeling)

Upon being hired at the “liberal” environmentalist front for the Network, Durant was interviewed by Peter Gemma for the white nationalist journal The Social Contract – also established by John Tanton. Gemma is “a former media coordinator for a chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization that has referred to African-Americans as a ‘retrograde species of humanity.’”

Their divisive and bigoted messaging aside, the Tanton Network and its Black allies must be given credit for their resiliency. In 2006, Choose Black America (CBA) was launched by Tanton Network groups NumbersUSA, FAIR, and CIS.  The leader of CBA was Ted Hayes, a prominent anti-immigrant activist, Islamophobe, and greatly involved with Black conservatism efforts.

At that time, CBA, which is now defunct, heralded itself as “the voice of Black America.” A couple of years later, a handful of CBA members formed another group, America’s Black Shield (ABS).

In 2011, after ABS fell apart, member Chanell Temple formed Blacks for Equal Rights Coalition (BFERC). And now, in 2013, there is the African American Leadership Council.

With the disbandment of each old group and the development of new ones, their messaging unimaginatively remains the same: immigration harms African-Americans. During the 2012 election, NumbersUSA went so far as to produce an ad saying such.

While the 844-page plus bill put forth by the Senate Gang of Eight on April 17th does raise some cause for concern – especially for Black immigrants, as it stands to eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program – the AALC should not be mistaken for an advocacy group for African Americans. Instead, it should be recognized for what it is: another attempt by the Tanton Network to use immigration as a wedge to drive between Black and Latino communities.

Anti-immigrant leaders continue to place blame for the loss of American jobs squarely on the backs of immigrants despite research showing that, “there is no correlation between rising rates of immigration and Black unemployment.”  These groups are able to continue with propagating fear and lies because one would like to believe that African Americans – even ones against immigration – would not align themselves with known white nationalists.

That messaging serves as a great distraction from the actual prejudice these groups are pushing and from the fact that lack of job opportunities for Blacks are due, in part, to:  substandard education across grades K-12, racial profiling that leads to the expansion of the prison industrial complex, attacks on the historical presence of unions, and structural racism and systemic discrimination experienced by the community. When a group has such strong ties to bigotry and white nationalism, it is far easier and more lucrative to blame immigrants and progressive immigration reform for lack of jobs than it is to address the impact of the country’s history with systemic and structural racism, and how that impedes racial equity and access to opportunity.

There are so many more constructive and positive ways to address African American concerns over immigration reform. The AALC, the groups preceding it, and surely the groups to follow it, should not be given any sort of platform to push such a disharmonious agenda – especially one that’s not even of their own creation.

 

The Center for New Community recognizes the need to challenge attempts at perpetuating disunity between Black and Latino immigrant communities with constructive dialogue. CNC and the Illinois Humanities Council will be hosting a Cafe Society conversation in Chicago, IL on Tuesday, April 30, called “Racial Justice and Immigration: Re-Imagining Black and Latino Relations.”