In a press release yesterday the anti-immigrant organization Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) announced a new television advertisement invoking the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The ad features dramatic photographs of unemployed workers while a narrator provides statistics regarding unemployment and wage levels in America. The ad concludes with the narrator questioning, “was that Dr. King’s dream?”
The rhetoric surrounding immigration’s effects on unemployment in the ad is certainly familiar to anyone who followed immigration debates over the the past year. It was a favorite messaging tactic
by leading anti-immigration groups. The Black American Leadership Alliance
even organized a rally in Washington based on the misleading premise that immigrants adversely affect the employment prospects of American citizens – communities of color, particularly. Other anti-immigrant organizations like Americans4Work
are predicated on similar rhetoric. So, while it may be expected, CAPS directly invoking the legacy of Dr. King to advance anti-immigrant messaging seems particularly shameful given its ties to white nationalism and organized bigotry.
In announcing the ad, CAPS Media Director Joe Guzzardi said, “As we mark the great Dr. King’s birthday, it’s safe to say, higher minority unemployment and no wage increase in 40 years were not part of his dream for Americans.” It is strange then, that for nearly ten of those last 40 years Guzzardi refers to, he was a regular contributor to the white nationalist website VDARE.com. It is very unlikely Dr. King agrees with the VDARE editors’ that romanticize “the historic American nation” and call for an immigration moratorium in order to preserve said “nation.”
CAPS is not working to distance itself from these affiliations either. In October last year, CAPS announced
an addition to its staff – bringing on John Vinson as a senior writing fellow. Vinson is also currently the president of the virulently anti-immigrant American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF
). Vinson is also known for helping found the neo-confederate League of the South and has associated
himself with the Council of Conservative Citizens – a group that has described African Americans as a “retrograde species of humanity.”
These facts in mind, consider further that CAPS representatives continue to espouse bigotry, demagogue people of color, and associate with other white nationalists:
- Earlier this year, Joe Guzzardi has used his platform at CAPS’ blog to perpetuate fear of Muslims.
- In an interview with the advocacy organization Cuenteme, former CAPS Board Chair Marilyn DeYoung derided Hispanic immigrants as violent gang members that abuse social benefits. After that interview, CAPS’ website listed DeYoung as being “on Sabbatical” from its board. Whether she will be a spokesperson remains to be seen.
- CAPS representatives – including Guzzardi and DeYoung – have been confirmed attendees at The Social Contract’s annual Writer’s Workshop gatherings. The Social Contract is a quarterly publication founded by white nationalist and architect of the modern day anti-immigrant movement John Tanton.
These comments and actions and those that represent CAPS show the organization has little interest in upholding Dr. King’s dream of a just, multiracial America. Instead, CAPS latest ad is another attempt to drive a wedge between communities of color by the anti-immigrant movement in hopes of advancing its agenda.
By using the country’s issues with unemployment and inequality – and disingenuously presenting immigrants as the source of these problems – the anti-immigrant movement continues to divide America’s vibrant communities, rather than unite them. We cannot allow these divisive efforts to succeed. Instead, we must embrace the hope and faith Dr. King embodied and continue working to create a more inclusive and just country. For it is with this faith, as Dr. King expressed in his iconic 1963 speech, “we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”