Despite recently moving its offices to a new location on Capitol Hill, that much closer to the halls of power, the last couple of months have been rough for anti-immigrant group ProEnglish.
Just one week after its executive director–and noted white nationalist–Robert Vandervoort excitedly wrote to supporters about opportunities the new office location presented, ProEnglish was handed a decisive defeat in Frederick County, Maryland. On August 18, the Frederick County Council voted 4-3 to repeal a 2012 ordinance making English the county’s official language. Prior to the vote The Frederick News-Post reported that ProEnglish had paid for “messages by robocall, email, mail and social media” in support of the ordinance that specifically targeted one councilman in a conservative district.
The councilman, Jerry Donald, voted to repeal the discriminatory ordinance despite ProEnglish’s campaign efforts.
ProEnglish was handed another defeat the following week in Arizona when a jury ruled against nursing student Terri Bennett in a discrimination lawsuit. In 2013, ProEnglish announced it would cover Bennett’s legal fees in the case where she alleged that Pima Community College failed to defend her rights as an English speaker. Citing requests for reimbursement submitted by PCC attorneys, The Daily Caller reported on September 8 that ProEnglish had spent more than $1.2 million for Bennett’s legal defense in 2013 and 2014.
To make matters worse for the anti-immigrant group, a judge ordered on October 8 that Bennett pay PCC nearly $111,000 to cover the college’s legal fees and other damages.
However, ProEnglish remained steadfast in its pursuit of discriminatory English-only policies. On September 21, Vandervoort testified before the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee in support of a proposed bill to make English the state’s official language. Vandervoort was invited to testify by virulently nativist State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.
Pennsylvania lawmakers criticized the nature of the hearing and Metcalfe’s invitation of the white nationalist. At one point, Metcalfe broke protocol and silenced Pennsylvania’s first and only Latina lawmaker. Metcalfe later defended Vandervoort against criticism from colleagues and media who highlighted his involvement with white nationalism.
“For whoever said the man was white to begin with, that person was actually the racist — tying his skin color to his patriotism and what he stands up for for his country,” Metcalfe said.
Criticism of Vandervoort, and Metcalfe, was certainly warranted. Vandervoort previously led a Chicagoland affiliate of American Renaissance – a group led by prominent white nationalist Jared Taylor – and has praised Taylor’s work. Taylor was in the news recently after appearing on anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney’s radio show. Incidentally, Vandervoort has also appeared on Gaffney’s program to promote ProEnglish’s work.
Reinforcing Vandervoort’s continued involvement with white nationalism, ProEnglish is a project of U.S. Inc., the umbrella organization founded by white nationalist and architect of the organized anti-immigrant movement, John Tanton. At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Vandervoort has been observed distributing copies of Tanton’s white nationalist quarterly publication, The Social Contract, throughout conference halls.
Elsewhere, the anti-immigrant movement is also looking to further ProEnglish’s aims. Activists in Oregon are attempting to place a referendum on English-only policies on next year’s ballot. Earlier this month, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) preyed on fears of demographic change by issuing a report titled, “One in Five U.S. Residents Speaks Foreign Language at Home.” In a classic example of CIS’ disingenuousness, the report obfuscates the fact that a sizable majority of residents detailed in the report are also proficient in English.
For years, the anti-immigrant movement has pursued English-only policies because they recognize the effect such policies can have on stigmatizing immigrant communities. While we should celebrate successes in places like Frederick County, we cannot lose sight of this movement’s continued attacks on policies designed to ensure that governments can functionally serve all their residents. ProEnglish will undoubtedly continue its efforts to promote English-only policies that harm immigrant communities by limiting access to public services and government functions. And its efforts will continue be furthered by the rest of the organized anti-immigrant movement who similarly realize the value such policies have in pursuit of their nativist goals.