In an email to supporters last week, the anti-Muslim grassroots group ACT! for America announced they are working on model legislation regarding states’ roles in refugee resettlement.
In 2011, ACT! played a major role in introducing and gathering support for a bill in Tennessee giving more power to state and local government over refugee resettlement policies–in hopes the legislation would allow the state to refuse refugees. The bill, which passed, was authored by Tennessee-based activist and attorney Joanne Bregman. Bregman’s husband runs the ACT! Middle Tennessee chapter.
ACT! wants to take this Tennessee model and export it to states across the nation.
“We are happy to announce that we will soon be working to see similar, enhanced, legislation of this nature introduced and passed in all 50 state legislatures,” the email reads.
According to ACT!, the goal of the legislation will give states more power to decide if refugees should be “allowed to live in their communities.” This comes on the heels of rampant fear and anti-Muslim sentiment expressed by public officials following the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris.
The group’s meddling in refugee policy is merely an extension of its anti-Muslim platform.
ACT! is best known for its efforts to lobby for model state anti-Shariah legislation, which has now passed in over 10 states. Such legislation has faced scrutiny for being unconstitutional and discriminatory. It has also been criticized for being “a solution in search of a problem.”
Bregman, who helped lay the framework for ACT!’s model refugee legislation, also provided legal expertise for Tennessee Laws for Tennessee Courts, Tennessee’s anti-Shariah bill which, in its original form, sought to jail anyone who provided material support to a “shariah organization.”
In July, ACT! announced it would be launching “working groups” to mobilize against humane refugee resettlement programs. The group has also been working closely with anti-refugee blogger Ann Corcoran. In November, ACT! organized a briefing on refugee issues for congressional staffers on Capitol Hill featuring Corcoran and Don Barnett of the anti-immigrant organization Center for Immigration Studies, a group that has been labeled a “false-fact think tank.”
ACT!’s targeting of refugee programs also runs deeper and reflects its leadership and followers’ anxieties over demographic changes in the United States. The group’s founder and president Brigitte Gabriel has gone as far as accusing the Obama administration of using refugee resettlement to “transform” America.
“[Obama] is already partly changing America because that’s his values,” she said during a recent interview, as reported by the website Right Wing Watch. “He does not believe in American exceptionalism, he believes that America has to be on par with the rest of the world and therefore we are all one, and that’s why he wants to intermingle America, to have a population of every corner of the world, whether or not they are equal to us or not.”