With immigration reform moving toward a vote in the Senate, anti-immigrant forces are ratcheting up their rhetoric. On Wednesday night, Eagle Forum hosted an “emergency” phone briefing intended to spur grassroots lobbying by their activists. It featured dire warnings about the Senate bill spelling doom for America, attacks on pro-reform Sen. Marco Rubio, and a joking suggestion that activists planning a visit to Sen. Susan Collins’ office “shoot her.”
Joining Eagle Forum’s Colleen Holcomb were Stephen Miller (standing in for his boss Sen. Jeff Sessions), Rosemary Jenks from anti-immigration Numbers USA, right-wing pundit Betsy McCaughey, and activist leaders from around the country. Also joining the call was the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, whose much-maligned “study” of the costs of immigration reform has gained attention mostly for the views of its co-author, since forced to leave Heritage, that immigration policy should reflect his belief that Hispanics have lower IQs than the “white native” population of the U.S.
One notable feature of the call was anger at Sen. Marco Rubio, who not long ago was the darling of the Tea Party movement, but who is now vilified for his support of immigration reform. Speakers on the Eagle Forum call expressed contempt for Rubio, saying he has been lying about the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” bill.
Rosemary Jenks from Numbers USA called the current Senate bill “devastating for America” and worse than the immigration bill that was defeated in 2007. “If this amnesty passes,” she warned, “that’s it for America.” Jenks insisted there is no way to fix the bill. “There is no series of amendments that can make this bill palatable to the American people,” she said. “Kill it dead, now, because it is not savable.” Jenks said it is important to keep the bill from passing in the Senate, because if it passes, and the House passes any kind of immigration legislation, the bills would go to conference where she said it would leave our future in the hands of President Obama, Harry Reid, and John Boehner.
Betsy McCaughey, a right-wing think-tanker and former Lt. Governor of New York, urged activists to point out sections of the bill that she said people will find “repulsive,” including provisions that she said would put “left-wing community organizations” in charge of assisting people applying for legal status. She said Rubio has not read the bill he is promoting.
Rector echoed that charge, saying Rubio “has no knowledge whatsoever” of what is in the bill. Rector defended his calculation that the immigration reform bill would cost America $6 trillion over the next 50 years and accused the bill’s supporters of deceiving the American public about its costs.
Callers were urged to rely on resources from Numbers USA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the Center for Immigration Studies, a trio of organizations that are, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “fruits of the same poisonous tree.” According to the SPLC,
“Together, FAIR, CIS, and Numbers USA form the core of the nativist lobby in America. In 2007, they were key players in derailing bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that had been expected by many observers to pass. Today, these organizations are frequently treated as if they were legitimate, mainstream commentators on immigration. But the truth is that they were all conceived and birthed by a man who sees America under threat by non-white immigrants. And they have never strayed from their roots.”
The remarks about Sen. Collins came in response to a question from an activist looking for suggestions for an upcoming meeting with her district office. “Yeah, shoot her,” came the response from a participant on the call. Awkward laughter followed, along with a speaker’s suggestion that they “shoot her with data.”