Earth Day 2014

Roy Beck, head of NumbersUSA

Today is Earth Day, a worldwide celebration of our planet.

Most people spend the day engaging in environmentally-focused activities but some use it to peddle their wacky political views. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, is one of those people. He’s an alarmist who stokes fears about overpopulation to fuel attacks on immigrants. NumbersUSA’s latest study, authored by Beck, Leon Kolankiewicz and Ann Manetas, titled “Vanishing Open Spaces: How an Exploding U.S. Population Is Devouring the Land that Feeds and Nourishes Us,” is a perfect example of these divisive arguments.

Here are informative and (sometimes) entertaining articles and videos breaking down the sneaky tactics used by NumbersUSA and other population alarmists (click on the headers to read the entire articles):

The Ugly Side of Earth Day

To address the climate crisis more successfully, we must acknowledge the complex and sometimes appalling aspects of the environmental movement’s history. And make sure strains of that history aren’t influential today.

One of their favorite tactics is to show up at Earth Day events to advance the flawed notion that immigration is bad for the environment. NumbersUSA has a booth every year at Earth Day Texas, for example. There are some easy ways to make known their presence isn’t welcome:

  • Report them to event coordinators. Often, coordinators of large events don’t do due diligence on the groups tabling or presenting at these events.
  • If you see an anti-immigrant group featured at an Earth Day event, speak up. Tell them you know about their connections to white nationalism and that they are distracting from the real causes of the climate crisis.
  • Distribute this nifty downloadable flier, Top Ten Reasons Immigrants are Not To Blame for Environmental Degradation, created by Betsy Hartmann, Director of the Population and Development Program and Professor of Development Studies at Hampshire College

Don’t Let Population Alarmist Derail Earth Day

The first indication that population control extremists are up to no good is that their arguments are illogical and rely on outdated ideas about climate change and population growth. Groups like Californians for Population Stabilization, NumbersUSA and Negative Population Growth argue that immigration increases the US population, which in turn causes resource depletion, pollution, climate change and even oil spills. Beyond unfairly blaming immigrants, the arguments are simply inaccurate. They presume that the United States’ environmental problems are isolated from the rest of the world. Rising temperatures and sea levels don’t respect national boundaries, and migration across national boundaries does not change total world population. Moreover, overpopulation has been debunked as a primary cause of environmental degradation.

Anti-Immigration Group Uses Earth Day To Recycle Argument That Immigrants Destroy Environment

An immigration-restrictionist group is using Earth Day to blame immigrants for three of California’s most urgent environmental issues: increased car usage, increased population, and water shortage. According to a television ad released by the organization California for Population Stabilization (CAPS) on Wednesday, the ongoing environmental degradation in the state is a result of immigrant-driven population growth.

In the ad, a petrified child asks a series of question, while harrowing statistics pop up beside him: “If Californians are having fewer children, why are there so many cars?”; “If Californians are having fewer children, why isn’t there enough water”; and “If Californians are having fewer children, where are all the people coming from?”

Colbert Report Takes On Californians for Population Stabilization

On April 25, 2012, the Colbert Report criticized an advertisement by Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS).  The clip also reveals connections between CAPS’s supposed environmental agenda and white nationalism. Check out the video below!


Also, check out Imagine2050′s spoof:


Illinois Minutemen threaten comeback with protest event Tuesday

After a long period of inactivity, a virulent anti-immigrant group and its controversial founder are planning to make their presence known again in Chicago. Last week, Rosanna Pulido announced an Illinois Minutemen “reunion tour,” targeting immigrant rights organizations. Pulido has a long history within the nativist movement and an extensive track record of bigoted remarks.

The Illinois Minutemen have announced plans to protest a Tuesday afternoon immigration event in Chicago. In an email to members, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) national field director Susan Tully endorsed the Minutemen action: “I hope that you’ll be able to join us next week in Chicago at the ‘Save the American Worker’ Rally.”

“We are monitoring the re-emergence of Pulido and the Illinois Minutemen,” said Jill Garvey, Executive Director of the Center for New Community. “This is an extremist group that employs violent and hateful rhetoric to demonize immigrants, Muslims and LGBT communities.”

Pulido is a former field staff representative for FAIR, an influential anti-immigrant organization founded by white nationalist John Tanton. Pulido, along with FAIR and the Minutemen, has not demonstrated any real interest in advocating for the American worker – and has not offered any initiatives or projects to do so.

Groups like FAIR have attempted to wedge communities that historically support civil rights – going so far as to create front groups to target organized labor (most recently Americans4Work and the Coalition for the Future American Worker), liberals and environmentalists (Progressives for Immigration Reform), and Catholics (Catholics for a  Moral Immigration Policy). In 2006, FAIR, Center for Immigration Studies, and NumbersUSA, launched ChooseBlackAmerica, an African-American front group.

Similarly, in an attempt to appeal to Latinos, FAIR recruited Pulido, who is Mexican-American, to lead its You Dont Speak for Me coalition — a front group that unsuccessfully tried to convince Latino communities that they were competing economically with immigrants. During her time in the spotlight, Pulido amassed a trove of anti-Catholic and racist comments:

“The Catholic Church is not Catholicism. It has nothing to do with Christianity or the Bible.”

Of the Catholic Church and immigration: “What better way to fill your pews and fill your offering coffers than with inviting in and giving sanctuary to illegal aliens.”

Pulido has been denounced by groups across the political spectrum, particularly during her ill-fated run for Illinois’ 5th Congressional District seat in 2009. During the campaign it came to light that Pulido had been posting derogatory comments online under the pseudonym Chicagolady.

Under that name, Pulido compared Muslims at prayer to dogs “smelling buts [sic]” and said she preferred to give her guns to liberals “bullets first.” She also said politicians should be “publicly hung for treason,” and that she believed gays were indoctrinating kids.

As a result, she lost key support from Republican allies and any remaining political credibility.

Nevertheless, Pulido and the Illinois Minutemen are attempting, once again, to assert themselves as relevant in the immigration debate. While there is no reason to be alarmed, their resurfacing is worth watching closely.

Young Americans for Freedom hosting Allen West at DePaul University

Tonight, former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) will be in Chicago speaking at an event organized by DePaul University students. The event is sponsored by the student group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) – a project of the national Young America’s Foundation which has chapters at college campuses across the country. Over the years West has been known to make incendiary remarks with some frequency. Among other things, West has previously described policies supported by Democrats as an “insidious form of slavery” and claimed proponents of religious coexistence represent “something that would give away our country.”

During his two years in Congress, West became a favorite of the far-Right and has continued to regularly associate with nativist organizations since losing his reelection campaign in 2012. Last year West spoke at anti-immigrant events like the DC March for Jobs and the Americans4Work symposium on unemployment. The former congressman was also honored by the anti-Muslim ACT! for America during the organization’s national conference.


Don’t let population control alarmists derail Earth Day

Earlier this week, the UN released a report revealing that significant measures are urgently needed to avoid an environmental and humanitarian disaster. Meanwhile, some population control extremists are manipulating environmental discourse to blame immigrants for climate change. In our haste to find solutions, we must be wary of those who are using environmental rhetoric as cover for their attacks on immigrant communities.

The first indication that population control extremists are up to no good is that their arguments are illogical and rely on outdated ideas about climate change and population growth. Groups like Californians for Population Stabilization, NumbersUSA and Negative Population Growth argue that immigration increases the US population, which in turn causes resource depletion, pollution, climate change and even oil spills. Beyond unfairly blaming immigrants, the arguments are simply inaccurate. They presume that the United States’ environmental problems are isolated from the rest of the world. Rising temperatures and sea levels don’t respect national boundaries, and migration across national boundaries does not change total world population. Moreover, overpopulation has been debunked as a primary cause of environmental degradation.

Beneath the green veneer of groups like Californians for Population Stabilization and NumbersUSA is a more coherent and disturbing agenda. Their real motivation is to keep immigrants out of the United States and stop the advancement of a multiracial country. They use fears over climate change and scarce resources to demonize immigrants as one way of accomplishing this goal. For example, Californians for Population Stabilization’s newly released ad in honor of Earth Day argues that California is overpopulated and resource-depleted as a direct result of immigrants. The ad cunningly implies that Californian citizens — or “we” — are responsibly managing resources by having fewer children and that immigrants are the uninvited depleters or consumers of scarce resources. Californians for Population Stabilization and its allies promote this divisive and discriminatory framework in a variety of ways, including active participation in mainstream events and conferences. Another example: NumbersUSA is planning to promote itself at a large Earth Day convention in Texas and has done so for the last several years.

Discussions about population are understandably fraught and have a troubling history. These discussions about population don’t need to stop, but they should be fair and inclusive of immigrant communities and communities of color. It’s important that we keep in mind that communities targeted by these groups are often those most affected by climate change.

We know immigrants aren’t the cause of climate change – or even population growth. Over-population alarmism distracts us from the real climate culprits. In order to successfully fight climate change, we must confront population alarmism. We simply cannot afford false solutions.

Gaffney laments disbanding of NYPD Muslim surveillance unit

The New York Police Department announced yesterday it would be disbanding its Muslim surveillance unit, drawing criticism from anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney.

Commissioner William Bratton announced the NYPD would be abandoning its controversial program that spied, mapped and documented the everyday activities of community members in New York city and beyond. Critical questions remain about what will become of the data that has already been collected and what other steps will be taken to rid the agency of bias-based police practices. Gaffney, of course, disapproved of the move and sounded the alarm about the dangers of no longer monitoring “incubators of jihadism.”

“In other words, from now on, NYPD will be reduced to asking for tips about jihadists from self-appointed ‘representatives’ of Muslim-Americans – who just happen to be adherents to shariah and the jihad it commands,” he wrote in a blog post. “Care to bet your life on that arrangement?”

This is not the first time those in the anti-Muslim movement have defended the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program. Last October, Pamela Geller and her allies held a press conference arguing for the continuation of the program and denounced Mayor Bill de Blasio’s opposition to it.

CIS’s Jon Freere exploits Boston Marathon attack to argue against DREAM Act

In a blog post published yesterday on the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)  legal policy analyst Jon Feere cited  the bombers in an attempt to counter the messaging used by advocates DREAM Act and similar proposals. Supporters of such polices “have concluded that foreigners who enter the United States by their teenage years are fully American, and consequently not a threat,” according to Feere, “even though our nation’s experience with Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev suggests otherwise.”

Feere later added, “As the Boston Marathon Bombing clearly illustrated, being brought to the United States by one’s parents at a young age does not necessarily indicate any type of allegiance to the United States.”

The organized anti-immigrant movement has long targeted the DREAM Act and often attempts to discredit supporters and potential beneficiaries. It has regularly done this by cynically upholding violent actions of individuals who, due to the bill’s requirements, would likely not qualify for benefits the bipartisan legislation provides.

A year after the Boston Marathon attacks: Holding the media — and ourselves — accountable

A makeshift memorial for victims near the site of the Boston Marathon bombings. 

“In times of conflict, the media’s responsibility for independent and pluralistic reporting is more important than ever. … In the aftermath of conflict, a free and independent press offers a way out of mistrust and fear into an environment where true dialogue is possible because people can think for themselves and base their opinions on facts.”  — United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, August 2000

In the hours and days after the tragic attacks at the Boston Marathon last year that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others, we watched the people of Boston respond heroically to the terror that struck their city. They were joined by individuals and communities from across the United States and the world who declared themselves #BostonStrong on T-shirts, bumper stickers and social media. This solidarity — through actual hands on deck or in spirit — spanned ages, races, backgrounds and faiths.

Many media outlets worked tirelessly to provide as much thorough, accurate and timely information as possible as the world stood by waiting to hear more. In fact, just yesterday the Boston Globe was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize “for its exhaustive and empathetic coverage” of the bombings and the subsequent search for the suspects.

At the same time, we also witnessed several media organizations, blogs, websites and social media outlets become the platforms for irresponsible reporting, abject speculation and plain rumors as the result of negligence or outright bias and bigotry.

Here are just a few of the most egregious errors that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the bombings:

  • False flag accusations in which commentators accused the U.S. government of conspiring to attack the marathon.
  • Conspiracy theories that a Saudi national seen at the event was responsible for the attacks. In actuality, he was a victim and is now suing Glenn Beck in a defamation case.
  • Speculation that a missing Brown University student was a suspect in the bombings, highlighting the dangers of “crowdsourced investigations” on social media sites. He was found dead later that month.
  • Accusations that two marathon spectators were responsible for the attacks. The New York Post featured them on the front page under the headline “Bag Men,” indicating that officials were seeking them. The pair was never the subject of investigation and are now suing the Post in a libel case.
  • Communication of unspecific information about the suspects that do not help an investigation but do feed into stereotypes. Case in point: CNN’s John King reported that authorities were seeking “dark skinned men.”

As stated in the quote above by Kofi Annan, it is during times of crisis that media outlets must be their most reliable and trustworthy. And as social media continues to evolve and the lines between news producer and consumer become increasingly blurred, we all share in the responsibility of upholding classic journalism standards. Whether writing original content or (re)tweeting, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Information that is shared must be truthful, accurate and shared in context.
  • Multiple sources should be consulted to verify information and ensure fairness.
  • News outlets must clearly distinguish between fact and commentary.
  • Media professionals — and casual social media users — must be accountable for the information they share and be willing to admit when they are wrong.
  • Journalists — professional and otherwise — must be sure to minimize the potential harm inflicted and uphold the humanity of all sources, subjects and audiences.

A strong democracy depends on the existence and vitality of a strong, independent media and a well-informed public. Even when trying to keep pace with the modern-day, round-the-clock, news cycle, we must all be mindful of the way we share information, especially during times of fear and uncertainty. With so much on the line, it’s an obligation on us all.

Arpaio to anti-Semitic newspaper: ‘I don’t talk. I take action.’

Anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio and representatives from two prominent anti-immigrant organizations recently provided interviews to American Free Press (AFP), an anti-Semitic newspaper founded by white nationalist and Holocaust denier Willis Carto.

“I have a gun and badge. I don’t talk. I take action,” Arpaio told AFP reporter Victor Thorn in an April 13 article on deportation policies.

Thorn’s article also includes comments from NumbersUSA’s Director of Content and Activism Chris Chmielenski and Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies at the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Vaughan used the interview to discuss findings from a highly misleading report she authored last month on interior immigration enforcement.

Representatives from the anti-immigrant movement have used anti-Semitic media outlets like AFP in the past to promote their work and agenda. Last December, CIS fellow David North appeared on the virulently anti-Semitic internet radio show “The Realist Report” for nearly an hour. KC McAlpin, executive director of the John Tanton-founded U.S. Inc., was heavily quoted in another AFP article authored by Thorn last year.



Passover eve shootings are a chilling reminder that violent bigotry persists

The suspect is a former government informant with long-standing ties to racist organizations

Yesterday’s shootings at a Jewish community center and assisted living facility are alarming acts of domestic terrorism by a longtime white supremacist leader. This is an unimaginable tragedy for the families of those slain in the attack and members of the Kansas City Jewish community, who were the presumable targets. That the attack came on the eve of Passover is a chilling reminder to Jewish communities preparing for the holiday that anti-Semitism in its deadliest form persists today.

The alleged shooter, Frazier Glenn Miller — who has also gone by Frazier Glenn Cross and Glenn Miller — has been well-known to law enforcement and civil rights groups as an active member of neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups for over 30 years. Miller has repeatedly threatened violence against Jewish and Black communities and has threatened to overthrow the U.S. government.

In 1986, when his organization, the White Patriot Party was investigated for illegal paramilitary and conspiracy activities, he testified against his former colleagues in exchange for leniency and went on to serve as a government witness for more than ten years. This did not, however, indicate a change in his racist ideology.

This latest act of terror is a terrible blow to the security of the Jewish American people and other vulnerable communities. While it is true that reported acts of anti-Semitic harassment have decreased, the reality is that white nationalism and racism are stubbornly entrenched in American culture.

Miller is part of a movement of individuals who are convinced that racial violence is the only solution to deter a multiracial democracy. Miller said as much during an interview with The New York Times in 1986, “We’re drowning in a sea of color and the white race won’t survive.”

Jews, Muslims, African Americans, and immigrants of color will continue to be targeted by violence unless all Americans establish measures to swiftly counter organized racism in their communities.


FAIR’s scaled-down radio event suggests waning influence for anti-immigrant movement


Last week, the Federation for American Immigration Reform held its annual anti-immigrant radio event “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” in Washington, D.C. Advertised as “the nation’s largest immigration media event,” the annual event is a flagship event for the anti-immigrant movement. While its organizers may disagree, the evolution of this annual event indicates that FAIR’s influence in the immigration debate is on the decline.

Once a four-day event uniting conservative talk radio hosts, anti-immigrant organizations and citizen activists, Hold Their Feet to the Fire has been cut down to two. Previously, the event included rallies and press conferences on Capitol Hill that garnered attention from national media outlets. Today, no such media attention seems to exist.

Other than a issuing a press release on Monday last week, FAIR made little effort to raise awareness of the event outside talk radio circles. FAIR did not even advertise the event on its website or extend invitations to most citizen activists it claims as members. A few leaders of state level anti-immigrant groups were in attendance, but the leadership presence appeared paltry compared to past years.

Today, Hold Their Feet to the Fire appears to be little more than a summit for conservative radio hosts. FAIR organizes the get-together and hosts a stable of anti-immigrant legislators and leaders. Members of Congress that have long served as mouthpieces for the anti-immigrant movement on Capitol Hill like representatives Steve King (R-IA), Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Lou Barletta (R-PA) – who is also a member of FAIR’s advisory board – sat down for numerous interviews and to advocate anti-immigrant positions to anyone willing to listen.

In addition to FAIR’s congressional allies, other far-Right activists like anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney broadcasted from Hold Their Feet to the Fire’s “radio row.” During an interview with Kansas Secretary of State – and counsel for FAIR’s legal arm – Kris Kobach, Gaffney shifted the conversation from immigration and Kobach’s voter suppression efforts to the importance of “American Laws for American Courts” legislation that purports to block Muslims seeking to subvert the U.S. Constitution with Shariah law.

Gaffney has become increasingly ostracized in conservative circles for peddling anti-Muslim conspiracies. FAIR’s willingness to provide him a platform at its annual event raises questions about the organization’s alignment and agenda.

Robert Vandervoort, a white nationalist and president of the anti-immigrant group ProEnglish, was also present for both days of Hold Their Feet to the Fire this year. Near the end of the event’s first day, FAIR’s official Twitter account thanked ProEnglish representatives for attending. While one would think FAIR would distance itself from controversial figures like Vandervoort and his organization, it refuses. In fact, the two anti-immigrant groups are simply continuing a long tradition of collaboration: FAIR founder — and architect of the modern day anti-immigrant movement — John Tanton, was ProEnglish’s founding chairman.

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Despite the controversial attendees and increasingly fringe nature of the event, FAIR will surely herald this year’s Hold Their Feet to the Fire as another success story. Such a story is desperately needed for an organization whose sordid history and ties to white nationalism have increasingly become public knowledge.