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first indication that population control extremists are up to no good is that their arguments are illogical and rely on outdated ideas about climate change and population growth.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.

In latest video, Islamophobe Bill Warner says hijab is a ‘hate symbol’

In a video posted on his website on April 7, Islamophobe Bill Warner criticizes the decision to wear a Muslim headscarf and likens women who choose to do so to card-carrying communists during the Cold War. His overarching point is that the hijab is a sign of political Islam, not “a fashion statement.”

In the video, Warner shares a tale of a recent trip to a local farmers market where he encountered four different types of head scarves, but only one put him on edge. It’s not hard to guess which type sets him off.

“When I see that hijab,” he says, “I see that [1,400 year old] history, a history of annihilation, death, and suffering.”

He also claims they have the same effect on him as KKK robes would have on an African American.

“By the way, Allah hates me because I’m a kafir,” he says around the 2:55 mark. “So to me the hijab is a hate symbol, just in the way the Klan outfit is symbolic to racial hate to a black man.”

Warner was scheduled to speak at an ACT! for America “Town Hall Meeting” scheduled at a public high school in Knoxville, but the event was canceled after concerns were raised about using public spaces to spread discriminatory political messages.

Listen to the audio here:


Beautiful chart invites us to think of migration on a global scale

Click on the image above to see the interactive charts.


Authors Guy Abel and Nikola Sander show data on 196 countries from 1990 through 2010

In the United States, many of us think of immigration flows only in relation to our southern border. If we stretch a bit, we might think of immigration historically, of immigrants in the past and today crossing oceans to move here. But we rarely think of it in a global context.

A dynamic chart, recently published by Science, visually depicts global migration flows over the last twenty years. The analysis used to create the chart also revealed some interesting facts about global migration. For example, if you adjust for population growth, the global migration rate has stayed about the same since 1995. Writing for Quartz, author Nick Stockton summarized several other findings regarding some of the largest migration flows in the last five years:

1) The largest regional migration is from Southeast Asia to the Middle East. This is largely because of the huge, oil-driven, construction booms happening on the Arabian Peninsula.

2) The biggest flow between individual countries is the steady stream from Mexico to the U.S. (In fact, the U.S. is the largest single migrant destination)

3) There’s a huge circulation of migrants among sub-Saharan African countries. This migration dwarfs the number leaving Africa, but the media pay more attention the latter because of the immigration debates in Europe.

The chart places our own conversation about immigration in an important global context. And demonstrates that all over the world, people move. While the research itself doesn’t address root causes of migration, we know people move for a wide variety of reasons – some freely choose to migrate, while many others are forced to migrate in search of safety and economic survival.

Take some time to explore this stunning graphic, and see how people move all over the world, and how these migration flows have changed over time.


In Gaffney interview, Kobach urges more states to pass anti-Shariah bills

Yesterday, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach discussed the supposed threat of Shariah law being applied in American courts with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney. The exchange occurred during a taping of Gaffney’s Secure Freedom Radio program at “Hold Their Feet to the Fire,” the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform’s annual radio event.

“There is an effort going on below the radar to insert Shariah law-based defenses into court cases,” Kobach claimed.

Later, Kobach expressed a desire for other states to pass “American laws for American courts” legislation that anti-Muslim activists frequently promote. This is not the first time Kobach has sounded the alarm about Shariah in the U.S. court system. In 2012, Kobach proposed an amendment to the Republican Party’s platform supporting a ban on Shariah and other foreign law. The amendment was approved despite Kobach admitting he was “not aware of any court that’s accepted the argument.”

Kobach is, perhaps, best known as the architect and defender of anti-immigrant legislation, such as Arizona’s S.B. 1070, and similar bills in cities and states across the U.S. As a member of John Ashcroft’s Justice Department, he also helped create a program that required thousands of visiting Muslim and Middle Eastern visitors to the U.S. register and be fingerprinted in a policy that amounted to racial profiling.