We reported earlier this year on the whisper campaign strategy we expected from the right wing in its effort to defeat comprehensive immigration reform, and since then we’ve seen exactly that–fringe extremism met with tacit acceptance by the mainstream.
We saw that strategy at work in Arizona, where an extreme-right state senator convinced the entire state government to hop on board an anti-immigrant plan that sanctioned racial profiling, hampered local law enforcement, and created a culture of fear for Latinos in the state.
But I don’t know if we expected anything as scary as we’re seeing this week.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that an anonymous group had circulated a list to media outlets and government officials containing the names, birth dates, addresses, and telephone numbers of 1,300 Utah residents who, they said, they “strongly believe are in this country illegally and should be immediately deported.” The list also included the due dates of pregnant women.
The release of the list has caused residents who are here legally as well as those without documentation to fear retaliation by self-appointed immigration enforcers.
Today, Think Progress reported a similar fear tactic in Arizona, where someone pretending to be a sheriff has sent letters to businesses and individuals telling them in an intimidating tone to “take heed” of the state’s new draconian anti-immigrant policy.
Both of these incidents involved anonymous groups of individuals, not government officials (though Utah officials suspect government employees might have been involved in leaking the personal information to the list). In both cases, state and local authorities are looking into who is responsible.
These incidents have been disturbing, but what is even more disturbing is the right’s silence in response. Utah’s governor, Gary Herbert, has expressed his disapproval of the Utah list, but few right wing leaders have joined him in speaking out against it. A spokesman for the Utah chapter of the Minuteman Project went so far as to say he thought the release of the list was a good idea, as long as the information on it was accurate.
If right wing leaders don’t condemn these tactics of intimidation, they tacitly condone them. And they can’t claim to be interested in real reform if they stand by silently while fringe groups incite hatred and fear.