Media outlets give platform to nativists’ back-to-school scare tactics

It’s back to school season and the ire of some on the far-Right has a new target: Central American children in U.S. schools. The prospect of children fleeing the violence in that region attending American schools has become a cause for alarm in nativist circles, and the organized anti-immigrant movement is seeking to capitalize.

Since reports first emerged of children arriving in the U.S., anti-immigrant organizations and far-Right media have continually demonized these children, calling for their immediate deportation. Now those same forces are attempting to stoke further anti-immigrant sentiment. For example, an August 12 Townhall.com headline boasted: “Schools to Be Flooded With Illegal Immigrant Children.”

As always, nativists refuse to acknowledge that these children have a right to an eduction. In the landmark 1982 Plyler vs. Doe decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all children have the right to a K-12 public school education.

Unfortunately, a smattering of mainstream media outlets are picking up the anti-immigrant movement’s talking points and allowing nativist fear-mongering to seep into their coverage. Among the examples:

  • Last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution headline proclaimed a local school district is dealing with a “swarm” of immigrant students. Though, the alarmist — and dehumanizing – headline was contradicted by the article’s final sentence: “DeKalb [County Schools] typically registers about 2,000 new immigrants a year, and the tally for this school year is about 1,300 so far.”
  • The L.A. Times offered NumbersUSA a platform to criticize Los Angeles Unified School District. Chris Chmielenski, NumbersUSA’s director of content and activism, said officials are sending the wrong message to Central America by honoring the recently arrived children’s right to an education. Neither Chmielenski nor his organization, however, have any expertise on this particular matter.

Strategy has failed in past

Portraying immigrants and refugees as a debilitating threat to public schools has long been a tactic of the anti-immigrant movement. In 1994, NumbersUSA founder and president Roy Beck breached the issue in an article for The Atlantic. Beck painted a dismal portrait of Wausau, Wisconsin, where Hmong refugees had been accepted in the 1970s.

“Many sensed that their way of life is slipping away,” Beck wrote of Wausau residents.

It should be noted that at the time of the article’s publication, Beck was working as a consultant for John Tanton – the white nationalist architect of the modern day anti-immigrant movement.

It should also be noted that editors of The Wausau Daily Herald recently reflected on Beck’s piece — nearly 20 years after its publication — and flatly refuted many of Beck’s claims.

The Herald editors wrote, “Did our life slip away? Nope,” adding, “Wausau has grown and become stronger as it has made a substantial Hmong population part of its fabric.”

As students and schools across the country prepare for a new year, mainstream media must not lend credence to the anti-immigrant movement’s attacks on children’s right to an education. After all, these attacks stem from a movement rooted in bigotry, one advocating for unconstitutional policies with leaders who operate outside the margins of legitimate public debate.

Instead, we must honor the rights of these children by providing them with care, with access to public education being a vital component. They, like the Hmong residents in Wausau and countless others across the country before them, deserve their opportunity to contribute to our country’s fabric.

Dutch xenophobe Geert Wilders an interesting choice to speak up for Israel

Geert Wilders, center, appears with Marine Le Pen, left, in 2013.

If Tom Trento is truly concerned about standing with Israel, he should reconsider his allies.

On Aug. 11, Trento, founder and president of the United West, featured Dutch politician Geert Wilders on his web show to discuss the importance of standing with Israel against Hamas. In reality, both men used the conflict to push the anti-Muslim agenda that runs through their work.

Wilders’ far-Right Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) has been continually criticized for it’s relationship to Nazi imagery, making Wilders an odd choice to speak up in support of Israel. Furthermore, Wilders is also currently allied with political parties across Europe that are long rooted in anti-Semitism.

But like his host, Wilders, who heads the PVV, seemed to forget all of that during Trento’s show.

Tom Trento

During a July demonstration in The Hague, pro-Palestinian participants used Nazi imagery in their protest of  Israel’s assault on Gaza, leading Dutch police to rightfully crack down on such incitement. “It was shocking,” Wilders told Trento. “There were people with Swastikas, with Nazi flags moving around in the streets of The Hague.” Wilders, though, feigned surprise to see such shows of anti-Semitism, something his own party has been guilty of in that very city.

Of course, both Trento and Wilders failed to mention this during their chat.

Let’s flashback to 2011, though, when Wilders became embroiled in controversy after a flag associated with the Dutch Nazi party was spotted hanging in the PVV’s parliamentary office in The Hague. The flag in question is the Prinsen flag, a symbol synonymous with the notorious Dutch national socialist party of the 1930’s. It has since been removed. And just last year, four members of PVV wore badges with the Prinsen insignia in the Dutch Parliament itself. This was after Wilders was singled out by another Member of Parliament after one of PPV’s supporters was seen waving the Prinsen flag and giving Nazi salutes at a party rally.

As if the Dutch Nazi flags weren’t enough, Wilders is also close allies with Marine Le Pen who is currently the president of France’s Front National, a political party with a long history of promoting anti-Semitism and fascism. Le Pen has previously called for Jewish yamakas to be banned in public places. Le Pen is considered tame when compared to her father and Front National founder, Jean-Marie. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Mr. Le Pen has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and referred to Nazi concentration camps during World War II as a “mere detail in history.”

Earlier this month, Wilders was dropped from a petition combating anti-Semitism in the Netherlands. His name was removed from the document after he released a statement criticizing the Dutch prime minister for not recognizing Islam and Muslim immigration as being the root cause for an increase in anti-Jewish sentiments.

“Close the borders! Tackle Islam!” he advised.

Back in March, Wilders was widely derided, with some hyperbolically comparing him to Hitler, after he echoed the famous 1943 speech of Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels in order to push for  less immigration (especially from Morocco) into the Netherlands.

As for Trento, he has defaulted back to the kind of content that failed to secure funding for his original show that was cancelled in December: That is, feature any guest on his show as an expert as long as they echo his anti-Muslim agenda. By providing Wilders a platform, it’s clear Trento does not care about combating anti-Semitism but rather aims to capitalize on complex conflicts for his own personal gain.

Nativist movement uses DACA anniversary to blame president, block relief

President Obama is expected to use his executive authority to address the nation’s fractured immigration system before summer’s end. The exact date and extent of relief is therefore still unknown. However, this lack of information has not stopped the anti-immigrant movement from trying to erode or to block protections for immigrants already living in the United States, as the president weighs some form of relief even though he already has a successful blueprint.

Friday, Aug. 15, marked two years since the president temporarily halted deportations for undocumented youth in the United States. Advocates last week used the anniversary to celebrate the broad successes of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which is rightfully protecting about 587,000 young people.

The anti-immigrant movement also made note of the two-year point, though, using the occasion to pressure Republicans in Congress to rip away the safeguards DACA provides and to halt any possible expansion of the program. In addition to deportation relief, DACA gives qualifying youth ages 15-to-30 the opportunity to apply for a two-year work permit. Since 2012, the program has received solid public support, with about 63% of surveyed adults approving. The president is reportedly considering the extension of deportation relief to the parents of DACA recipients. Such a move could positively impact the lives of as many as one million people already residing here, according to one estimate.

Scapegoating and finger-pointing

As the summer winds down and some form of temporary relief becomes a more distinct possibility, anti-immigrant activists are doubling down on their efforts to cast any action by the president as out of bounds, purposefully ignoring the fact he and his administration will simply be reinforcing laws that already exist. Mark Krikorian of the nativist think tank Center for Immigration Studies argues that past instances of administrative relief on immigration “were made up out of whole cloth by the executive as a way of letting illegal aliens stay.”

“[W]hen a president proposes to issue a ukase [an edict issued by a Russian czar] amnestying millions [sic] of illegal aliens … without permission from Congress, it does indeed represent a leap into the antidemocratic dark,” Krikorian wrote Friday for the National Review.

Again, Obama has broad authority to issue administrative relief, and his doing so will only streamline laws that already exist.

Anti-immigrant grassroots organizations were ready to carry Krikorian’s message forward. In a coordinated blitz Thursday, NumbersUSA, the Tea Party Patriots and the Eagle Forum were among the groups urging their members to implore their senators to defund the DACA program. In an email appeal, NumbersUSA blamed DACA – “and the message it sends” – for the arrival to the United States of children fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America. The group continues to exploit the highly publicized humanitarian challenge and to scapegoat the migrant children to block any form of humane relief.

“If President Obama expands his program, how many more will try to come to our country illegally?” its email read.

House Republicans appeared to have already bought into this nativist line of thinking, but the Senate will largely prove unreceptive. The president has a chance to offer relief – even if limited – to keep families together and to allow more people to step forward and to participate in their communities without fearing deportation and/or detention.

“Keeping 11 million people in the shadows, working under the table, ripping apart our families, deporting Dreamers, creating no process for people to legally apply to come to this country – that’s the radical immigration policy Republicans want,” said Lorella Praeli, directory of advocacy and policy with the group United We Dream.

Kalia Abiade is the advocacy director at the Center for New Community. Image Credit

Colorado FAIR group to host Tom Tancredo, Maria Espinoza

On Aug. 23, the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIRCO) will hold an event in Denver featuring former Congressman and failed Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo. CAIRCO is a Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) state contact group. Its director, Fred Elbel, has long-standing ties to leaders of the anti-immigrant movement, including FAIR founder and white nationalist John Tanton.

In a column for the far-Right conspiracy website World Net Daily earlier this month, the stridently anti-immigrant Tancredo wrote, “we should all stock our ammunition shelves and join a militia” if House Republicans do not impeach President Obama.

In 1999, Tancredo founded the House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC) — allowing FAIR and the anti-immigrant movement direct access to members of Congress.

Maria Espinoza of The Remembrance Project (TRP) is also scheduled to speak at the CAIRCO event. Over the last year, Espinoza has increased her prevalence in nativist circles by attending myriad anti-immigrant events in places such as Oregon, Iowa, as well as FAIR’s annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire event in Washington, D.C.

 

Week in Review: CIS still has foothold in Congress, FAIR-pledge candidates fall again in primaries

A sign from an anti-immigrant protest in Lansing, Michigan, on Aug. 2. (Via Facebook)

Nativist think tank still has a foothold in Congress — but why?

Thursday, August 14, 2014 | Imagine 2050

The Center for Immigration Studies has a cozy relationship with key House Republicans despite a recent controversy and years of questionable tactics. This raises serious questions and implications about the relationships between members of Congress or any agents engaged even partially in national security work and an organization with well-documented ties to political extremists, some of which publicly indulge violent fantasies.

 

Murrieta protesters linked to coalition that includes white nationalists

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 | Imagine 2050

Earlier this summer, anti-immigrant hysteria fueled protests in Murrieta, California, compelling news outlets to cover them and urging activists in other cities and states to follow suit. It should come as no surprise that the activists involved in organizing the protests are linked to a coalition based in Southern California that includes white nationalist, anti-Muslim and far-Right extremist groups.

These anti-immigrant activists gained notoriety after they blocked buses transporting Central American children who fled violence to Border Patrol processing facilities.

 

Candidates who signed FAIR’s nativist pledge lost primaries

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 | Imagine 2050

Twelve more Republicans learned last week that promising to support an anti-immigrant agenda does not help you win elections.

In April, the Federation for American Immigration Reform asked mid-term candidates, “Will you promise to protect American workers?” Keep reading and you’ll learn that what FAIR is really asking is whether candidates oppose “(1) amnesty; (2) increasing the number of guest workers; and (3) increasing the overall level of immigration.”

On Thursday, six candidates who signed FAIR’s pledge competed in five races. All of them lost. Two days earlier, in the eight primaries that featured pledge signers, six lost.

 

Nativist coalition tries to replicate Murrieta protests, fails to impact elections

Monday, August 11, 2014 | Imagine 2050

On August 2, anti-immigrant activists staged demonstrations at the offices of five members of Congress that they consider to be “pro-amnesty” ahead of upcoming primary challenges.

“We have a new and powerful American populist movement that is rapidly forming to save the nation,” Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) President William Gheen said in an email ahead of the planned demonstrations. “If we fail to sweep the 2014 Elections this could be the last ride of the Americans!”

Apparently, not enough people got Gheen’s message. All five members of Congress targeted by protests on August 2 easily won their primary elections last week.

 

Ex-Border Patrol agent to speak at Colorado Tea Party event

Thursday, August 14, 2014 | Nativism Watch

Geller, Spencer to headline Aug. 17 pro-Israel rally in Manhattan

Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 | Nativism Watch

Ex-Border Patrol agent to speak at Aug. 19 Colorado Tea Party event

On August 19, retired Border Patrol agent Zack Taylor will speak at event in Lakewood, Colorado, organized by the Colorado Tea Party Patriots and Arapahoe Tea Party. Taylor is chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers and is largely considered an authority on border security and immigration issues by anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA as well as far-Right media outlets like Breitbart.

Taylor regularly speaks at meetings of far-Right groups – specifically in his home state of Arizona. On July 28, he and disgraced former state senator Russell Pearce were featured speakers at a meeting of the Red Mountain Patriots in Mesa.

Geller, Spencer to headline Aug. 17 pro-Israel rally in Manhattan

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group headed by anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, are hosting a rally on August 17 in New York City’s Union Square.

According to Geller, the goal of the event is to “stand for Israel and all the minority populations worldwide that are threatened by the global jihad.” Both Geller and Spencer are slated to speak at the event. It will also feature other speakers who claim to represent communities from around the world who have “experienced Islamic jihad firsthand.”

However if past AFDI rallies serve as a guide, Geller and Spencer will seek to politicize this crisis in order to push their anti-Muslim agenda, with the recent Israel and Hamas conflict being no exception. Geller has already recently appeared at a separate rally in support of Israel in order to showcase her anti-Muslim ad campaign which equates Muslims and savages.

Nativist think tank still has a foothold in Congress – but why?

The Center for Immigration Studies has a cozy relationship with key House Republicans despite a recent controversy and years of questionable tactics.

On July 17, the Center for Immigration Studies’ (CIS) Stephen Steinlight spoke before a Tea Party group in Sebring, Florida. As he has before such crowds numerous times previously, Steinlight didn’t shy away from the controversial. Unique to this occasion, however, his comments made national news.

One usually does when you openly advocate for the hanging and decapitation of President Obama:

“We all know, if there ever was a president that deserved to be impeached, it’s this guy. All right? And I wouldn’t stop. I would think being hung, drawn, and quartered is probably too good for him….But you know, this man who wants to rule by the use of a pen, a telephone, let us not forget his teleprompter….the fact is that it would backfire very badly and we’ve got to be grownups and accept that we can’t have everything we want, you know, [like] his head on a skewer.”

Mark Krikorian, CIS’s executive director, responded with his usual flippancy, telling a reporter that he had placed “a reprimand in [Steinlight’s] personnel file” for using “impolitic language.” For years, and even once before Congress in 2004, Krikorian has struggled to fend off charges of his group’s role as a principal leader of this country’s organized nativist movement, which originates with the white nationalist and population-control obsessed John Tanton.

Krikorian answered to Tanton when the former worked for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) before being moved in 1995 to lead CIS, one of FAIR’s two sister organizations in Washington, D.C.

This is significant beyond potential criminal implications. For one, CIS is a trusted source of “research” for anti-immigrant members of Congress, including long-time ally Rep. Lamar Smith. Other Republicans, like House Judiciary Committee (HJC) Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, have caved and cowered before 1) the anti-immigrant caucus in the House led by Reps. Steve King and Smith and 2) the conflated implications of Eric Cantor’s loss to long-shot Tea Partier David Brat. (In Cantor and Brat’s district, exactly 70% of registered GOP voters on election day supported immigration reform.)

Quiet coordination

Goodlatte’s and Smith’s trust in CIS (read: “likely active working relationship with”) was demonstrated as recently as May 12.

That morning, CIS released a report claiming that “36,000 criminals” (with nearly 40% of convictions being categorized as some manner of “Traffic Offense”) had been released by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) in 2013. It is troubling that CIS still refuses to make public the document on which the study is based – forcing everyone to simply take the organization at its word.

Seemingly within minutes of the report’s public release – and in what appears to expose quiet coordination with CIS – Goodlatte and Smith issued a joint statement regarding their shared alarm and shock at the group’s findings. Goodlatte soon called for a full HJC hearing to examine the results of a report authored by researchers who refused to be transparent about their source documentation.

Steinlight later bragged to a reporter that the document was obtained via “our [CIS’s] ongoing good connections with whistleblowers in agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” which is a division of the Department of Homeland Security. It’s worth noting that Smith has welcomed invitations to speak at CIS sponsored and organized events in the past. Internal documents from FAIR made available to the George Washington University library reflect that Smith began a working relationship with FAIR as early as 1990.

When will CIS become ‘too hot to handle’?

From sources well-placed within the Beltway, the Center for New Community has learned that FAIR’s employees and associates can no longer be called before the HJC, or any other Congressional committee, because the group is now simply “too hot to handle.” Earning the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation as a “hate group” alongside the Anti-Defamation League’s similar classification has helped marginalize FAIR from official Congressional activity.

And all of this raises serious questions and implications about the relationships between members of Congress or any agents engaged even partially in national security work and an organization with well-documented ties to political extremists, some of which publicly indulge violent fantasies.

  • Why does CIS receive such trust, particularly from House Republicans?
  • Should tax-payer money really be used to hold hearings based on the murky research of such organizations?
  • Shouldn’t publicly elected officials be asked to explain their relationships with an organization that refuses to fire or even to distance itself from an individual who as claimed all Muslim immigration should be outlawed, that Hispanic immigrants will bring about “the unmaking of America” and their seeking equal civil rights will eventually lead to a bloody revolution presumably against whites, and who has called for a president’s execution?
  • Like FAIR, what will it take for CIS to become “too hot to handle?”

On Aug. 20, Steinlight will speak at a meeting of the Vaca Valley Tea Party in northern California. One can only wonder if any ICE whistleblowers or perhaps FBI agents will be in attendance. After his recent comments, organizations like ours and pro-migrant advocates certainly shouldn’t be the only parties interested in what the Center for Immigration Studies Senior Policy Analyst will have to say.

The question remains, though, when will those within the Republican Party who welcome CIS into Congress be remembered for doing so?

Aaron Flanagan is the director of research at the Center for New Community.

Murrieta protesters linked to coalition that includes white nationalists

Earlier this summer, anti-immigrant hysteria fueled protests in Murrieta, California, compelling news outlets to cover them and urging activists in other cities and states to follow suit. It should come as no surprise that the activists involved in organizing the protests are linked to a coalition based in Southern California that includes white nationalist, anti-Muslim and far-Right extremist groups.

These anti-immigrant activists gained notoriety after they blocked buses transporting Central American children who fled violence to Border Patrol processing facilities. Those credited in organizing and participating in the protests included Patrice Lynes, Diana Serafin, and Robin Hvidston, executive director of We the People Rising. It was later revealed Lynes and Serafin share a bigotry that is not limited to just immigrants; they have targeted Muslims as well. Hvidston also has a history of associating with groups within the organized anti-immigrant movement.

Hvidston’s We the People Rising belongs to a coalition called Unite Inland Empire, or Unite IE, a nexus of right-wing groups in California’s Inland Empire area. The coalition consists of various Republican and Tea Party groups, and it includes chapters of anti-Muslim, white nationalist, and extreme far-Right groups.

Here are some of the more notable groups that make up Unite IE:

The John Birch Society

One of the groups in the coalition is the Norco chapter of the John Birch Society, an organization known for codifying white nationalism and far-Right conspiracy theories for the past 50 years. In the book Right Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, authors Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons wrote:

“In a sense, the Birch society pioneered the encoding of implicit cultural forms of ethnocentric White racism and Christian nationalist antisemitism rather than relying on the White supremacist biological determinism and open loathing of Jews that had typified the old right prior to WWII. Throughout its existence, however, the Society has promoted open homophobia and sexism.”

The John Birch Society was also where notorious white nationalists William Pearce and Willis Carto first launched their careers.

The Oath Keepers

Unite IE also includes the Oath Keeper’s riverside chapter. The Oath Keepers are a violent, anti-government “Patriot” group that recruits police, soldiers and veterans into its ranks. The group aims to oppose what it deems as government tyranny by any means possible, including violence.

ACT! for America

The Corona, California, chapter of the anti-Muslim grassroots group ACT! for America is also included. The national chapter of ACT! recently awarded Corona’s Don Dix with its chapter leader of the year for his involvement in setting the coalition of what it called “other like-minded organizations.” It should be noted that ACT! considers notorious white nationalist groups to be “like-minded.”

Connection to Patrice Lynes

In 2010, Lynes attended the Murrieta We The People Freedom Rally. During the event, Lynes appeared alongside Douglas Gibbs, who runs The Constitution Association, another group included under the Unite IE umbrella. According to the flyer, immigration and “Islam rising” were among the major topics at the rally. ACT! for America was said also had a booth at the there. Various anti-Muslim propaganda including including Geert Wilders’ film “Islam Rising” and Bill Warner’s “Sharia Law for Non-Muslims” were available for purchase.

It’s clear Murrieta’s anti-immigrant protests against the Central American children were anything but spontaneous given its organizer’s long histories of bigotry. However, their connections to the Southern California-based coalition steeped with white nationalism and far-Right extremism proves just how rooted in hatred this really is.

Politics

More candidates who signed FAIR’s nativist pledge lose primaries

Twelve more Republicans learned last week that promising to support an anti-immigrant agenda does not help you win elections.

In April, the Federation for American Immigration Reform asked mid-term candidates, “Will you promise to protect American workers?” Keep reading and you’ll learn that what FAIR is really asking is whether candidates oppose “(1) amnesty; (2) increasing the number of guest workers; and (3) increasing the overall level of immigration.”

On Thursday, six candidates who signed FAIR’s pledge competed in five races. All of them lost. Two days earlier, in the eight primaries that featured pledge signers, six lost.

It is possible that FAIR is trying to see the bright side of last week’s results. In Washington’s 4th District, Tea Party-baked former NFL player Clint Didier won a “top two” primary and will face fellow Republican Dan Newhouse – who did not sign the pledge – in November.

But FAIR-aligned victors Danny Page in Tennessee – who just signed on last week – and Allen Hardwick in Michigan are in tougher races in the general election. Page is running as an independent against Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and, according to the latest FEC filings, has raised only $2,000 to Alexander’s $2 million. Hardwick, a Republican, is up against Rep. Dan Kildee whose district is a Democratic stronghold.

This primary season has been a rough one for FAIR. Of the 94 candidates who are running for federal office (in 75 races) and have signed FAIR’s pledge:

  • 14 candidates have won their respective primaries and/or runoffs. This includes five incumbents and three others who ran unopposed.
  • 68 candidates have lost or dropped out of primary races.

It’s worth noting that a tiny percentage of candidates for federal office signed the pledge. Only about 4 percent did. Candidates who may otherwise align with FAIR’s anti-immigrant agenda know that publicly aligning with a group so closely linked to nativist extremism carries political risks. Most of the candidates who did sign on had little hope of winning in the first place.

FAIR is one of the three most influential anti-immigrant organizations in the United States. They are part of a network – known collectively at Imagine 2050 and the Center for New Community as the “Beltway Big Three” – that includes the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA. Each of the groups have their roots in the “population control movement” and can all be traced back to the same controversial figure, John Tanton.

FAIR’s Congressional Task Force and its lobbyists are close to important members of the House Judiciary Committee and the agenda they are trying to push with the help of Reps. Steve King and Lamar Smith are major factors in the House’s failure to pass humane – or any – immigration reform measures.

Some politicians may know better than to publicly align with a group like FAIR, especially during primary season. But this November, we may get a better glimpse at who is willing to uphold and advance its agenda.

 

Imagine 2050 Staff contributed to this report. Kalia Abiade is the advocacy director at the Center for New Community.

 

Image source: flickr user apalapala - Creative Commons