Activists fighting to keep a draconian anti-immigrant ordinance in a Nebraska town reportedly have called in the big guns: the Nativist group FAIR.
In 2010, voters in Fremont, Nebraska passed an ordinance barring landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants and requiring employers to check new employee’s immigration status. (The employment provision exempted the town’s largest employers, two meatpacking plants just outside of city limits.) Behind the law was Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has made a name for himself by peddling anti-immigrant and voter suppression measures to communities across the country.
Our Vote Should Count enlisted the help of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Tea Party Patriots, True The Vote, and other national organizations, including a Washington, D.C.-based analyst and an Omaha media consultant, to put together a media campaign that will use social media, print media, flyers and canvassing to get out their message.
UPDATE: The Fremont Tribune reported that the group True the Vote was involved in the Fremont initiative. True the Vote tells us that they had no involvement in the measure and are seeking a retraction from the Tribune. We have removed True the Vote from our our story.
UPDATE 2: The Fremont Tribune reports that Our Vote Should Count was in contact with local organizers at FAIR and True the Vote, which may not have come to the attention of the national groups:
“In assembling facts and data,” Von Behren replied in an email to the Tribune, “we met individually with representatives of Tea Party Patriots, True The Vote and (the Federation for American Immigration Reform). Each provided varying levels of support, including data access, technical support, data analysis and general knowledge of the issues from their experience. It's correct that the national office of True The Vote may not have known about local conversations. I would expect the same of (Tea Party Patriots) or FAIR.
“The information provided was all publicly available, but much easier to find with help from someone who works in that area. Neither of the other two organizations raised a concern so we assumed that was the normal function of a local representative,” Von Behren wrote.
Supporters of the Fremont ordinance don’t exactly hide that they are motivated by suspicion of the town’s growing Hispanic population – whether documented or not. One Vote Should count shared this graphic on its Facebook page, which warns that “Fremont is a sanctuary city” because its “Hispanic population TRIPLED! in 10 years”:
In November, Harpers author Ted Genoways visited a town meeting about the ordinance and found racial tensions running high, as one woman railed against “Spanish in my schools” and a Latina resident, a third-generation American, recalled a man screaming at her to “go back to Mexico.”
An Our Vote Should Count spokesman, after warning of the increase in the “non-white population” in local schools, told the Fremont Tribune that the real racists were undocumented immigrants:
Enforcing the ordinance is not about targeting a race, he said.
“There are two levels of racism here. One is a set of racists who will use illegal people for their own profit, and that is being done actively. The other racism is people who knowingly break the law to come here for their own profit,” he said.
As Director of Governmental Affairs for the Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association, Sandy Rios lives in the Washington D.C. area. But she told AFA head Tim Wildmon today that she is one of the few US citizens in the District. In an interview today with Wildmon on Today’s Issues, Rios said that immigrants are the majority in Washington, or at least in the city’s McDonald’s restaurants.
“In Washington D.C., sometimes when we are in public places it’s hard to find any natural-born Americans, you are the minority,” she told Wildmon. “When I go through McDonald’s or whenever I interact with illegal immigrants -- and like I said, they are legion -- my responsibility is to be kind and gracious.” Rios went on to explain that biblical commands to treat immigrants with compassion should not impact public policy.
In fact, foreign born residents account for 13.5% of the city’s population (compared to 13.0% nationally). Undocumented immigrants make up just 4.5% of the District’s residents.
Wildmon warned that offering undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship would lead to “the end of the Republican Party as we know it,” while Rios called such a move “Republican suicide” and urged GOP leaders to get out of Washington more and live in places like Mississippi.
“I think of that phrase in the Old Testament about a ‘strong delusion,’ she said. “I would say that the Republican leadership is under a strong delusion. I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it except that they just don’t get out enough, they need to go live in Mississippi, they need to go live in Nebraska, wherever, because the sanity seems to leave them.”
William Gheen, head of the anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC), explained to an Idaho radio host last month that he’s not a racist, he’s just opposed to the people who are trying to change America’s history of being “predominately governed by people of European descendancy.”
The people who call him a racist, Gheen told host Kevin Miller, are just “looking for any way to create division among any group,” a practice that he claims has increased under the Obama administration.
Anybody that dares say anything that they don’t like is going to get a label applied to them – sexist, racist, homophobic, anything like that. Because the name of their game is that since America has been traditionally a center-right nation for 200 years, has been predominately governed by people of European descendancy and Christian, different denominations of Christianity and deist backgrounds, they’re trying to knock that down. So they’re looking for any way to create division among any group.
You’ve seen it escalate, I believe, under the Obama administration, an increased tension between white, black and Hispanic; between straight and gay; between male and female; between young and old. Any differences between Americans that they can exploit and accentuate and increase, they don’t miss an opportunity to do it.
Later in the interview, Gheen repeated his frequent claim that illegal immigration amounts to an “invasion” and compared undocumented immigrants to muggers who threaten violence.
These sentiments are sadly not unusual coming from an anti-immigrant activist, but are notable coming from CIS, which generally portrays itself as the subdued, numbers-focused “think tank” of the movement.
“We can expect disaster. In sum, we’ll witness the unmaking of America,” says Dr. Stephen Steinlight of the Center for Immigration Studies. “It would subvert our political life by destroying the Republican Party. The Hispanic vote will make the Democrats the PRI of America. A GOP relic might survive regionally, but could never successfully contest a national election.
“America would turn into a One Party State which, like all others, would be tyrannical and corrupt. The political center would lurch to the left. Political liberty, the freedom to choose among authentically different alternatives, would be lost.
“A population transfer from one nation with a different language and political culture which will become the predominant future demographic will destroy social cohesion. The diversity of previous immigration safeguarded against this. Dual language/dual culture countries are plagued by Balkanizing social strife.”
In a separate interview with Cotto, Steinlight reportedly claimed that Hispanic immigrants won’t be political conservatives because they “don’t exemplify ‘strong family values’” due to “illegitimacy” rates and “anti-social behavior such as teenage child-bearing, the highest school drop-out rate, and high crime and incarceration rates.”
Some claim that Hispanics are “natural conservatives” due to their family-oriented culture. This allegedly makes them Republicans in all but formal registration. Such an idea is controversial because election totals usually do anything other than reflect it.
“The premise and stereotype are equally false,” Steinlight says. “There’s no correlation between ‘strong family values’ and conservatism. Cultures perceived as possessing them (i.e. Asian Americans and Jewish Americans) are predominantly liberal. Moreover, whether understood generically or as socially conservative code language, Hispanics don’t exemplify ‘strong family values.’
“Illegitimacy is inimical to ‘family values,’ yet Hispanics have a high rate and have witnessed the greatest increase of any group: 19 percent in1980 to 42 percent in 2003. More female-headed single-parent households deepens Hispanic poverty resulting in anti-social behavior such as teenage child-bearing, the highest school drop-out rate, and high crime and incarceration rates.
While the vast majority of Americans, including Republicans, back a comprehensive immigration reform plan that includes a pathway to citizenship, the Nativist movement is still trying to scare voters and elected officials into thinking that attempts to fix America’s broken system will actually destroy the country…and all of civilization.
Here’s a look at some of 2013’s worst xenophobic leaders, including our choice for “Nativist of the Year”:
8. William Gheen
Americans For Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) leader William Gheen hasn’t changed his tune about usingviolence to stop immigration reform, warning that his group may soon stop using “nonviolent political means.” According to Gheen, politicians are trying “to demonize whites, Christians, and males” and turn over power to immigrants who are “gang raping, molesting kids, drinking, driving, killing, and joining gangs that try to feed our children cocaine and methamphetamine at the earliest age they can.”
As the leader of the Texas chapter of Eagle Forum and a former chairman of the Texas GOP, Adams has been pleading with her fellow Republicans not to aid immigration reform efforts. Why? She believes that such reform measures are tools of Satan that will lead to the enactment of Sharia law and usher in the End Times.
6. Ann Coulter
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter is angry that America no longer has racist immigration quotas, worrying that America will soon “turn itself into Mexico” and undermine its delicate “ethnic composition.” “The country is over,” she said, if the immigration reform passes. Coulter also seems to be creating figures about the undocumented population out of thin air, suggesting that there are 30 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
5. Phyllis Schlafly
The immigration debate in Congress opened the door for some conservative activists to not only oppose reform efforts but also to fight any political outreach to non-white voters. Eagle Forum head Phyllis Schlafly took the lead, urging the GOP to abandon any outreach to people of color and Latinos in particular. She claims Latinos don’t understand the Bill of Rights or American values... because if they did, they would be voting Republican like real Americans do. Instead, explained Schlafly, Republicans should simply try to increase white turnout.
4. Mark Krikorian
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies seems to think that Nativists are the real victims in the immigration debate and is attempting to use a “play the victim” mentality to attack supporters of immigrant rights. He says that Nativists are waging a heroic struggle against “ethnic chauvinist groups” and their allies in “Big Business…Big Labor, all the big donors, Big Government Big Education, Big Media, Big Philanthropy [and] Big Religion.” Krikorian hopes that the GOP stops trying to attract Latino voters, warning that “the future of the republic rests” on whether Speaker Boehner allows immigration reform to come to a vote in the House.
3. Michele Bachmann
Speaking of which, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) andherfriends in the Tea Party Caucus are desperately trying to defeat immigration reform by making sure that such legislation doesn’t even come up for a vote. Bachmann believes that immigration reform will literally destroy the future of the country and that Obama won re-election in part because he gave some undocumented immigrants the right to vote (he didn’t). She thinks that Republicans should give Obama a spanking until he hands over his magic wand that unilaterally gives the vote to all undocumented immigrants:
2. Jason Richwine
The Heritage Foundation’s study on the supposedly devastating impacts of immigration reform might have had more credibility if its principal author, Jason Richwine, weren’t a proponent of racist pseudo-science with links to white nationalists. His report was so erroneous and misleading that even many of Richwine’s fellowconservatives didn’t find it credible, but that hasn’tstopped GOP politicians from using the salacious report to justify their anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), in an interview with WorldNetDaily yesterday, urged the House to continue debating the Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law in 2010 — into 2014 and refuse to consider any legislation pertaining to immigration reform.
At least Mark Krikorian knows his audience. In an interview with WorldNetDaily today, the Center for Immigration Studies director urged House Republicans who support immigration reform to oppose the Senate’s bipartisan immigration plan simply in order to deny President Obama a “victory.”
“The only thing he has left now that would salvage the wreckage of his administration is an amnesty,” Krikorian told WND. “And why any Republican, even if they agreed with him, would save President Obama’s political fortunes is beyond me.”
Several fringewebsites have picked up a video from YouTube savant Gabor Zolna about how “the half-baked African American Arab Muslim” Obama will use immigration reform to “bring in about 150 million Muslims” to the US as part of a plan to impose Sharia law and join the Caliphate. This is actually lower than anti-Muslim activist Avi Lipkin’s estimate that the President will bring in 50-100 million Muslims.
Naturally, Sandy Rios was asked on her show last week if Obama will in fact settle 150 Muslim immigrants in the US if a reform bill passes Congress.
Rios said that such claims make sense and that maybe the whole campaign for immigration reform is a Muslim plot.
The American Family Association radio host pointed to a Muslim organizer of DREAM Act activists as proof that “there’s no question that bad character Muslims, the Muslim Brotherhood and others, are going to use the whole amnesty problem that we have to bring in tons of illegal immigrant Muslims who don’t wish us any kind of good.”
UPDATE 11/19: YCT head Lorenzo Garcia has cancelled the “game” due to concerns “the university will retailate against [YCT] and the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers.” He said in a statement that he is “shocked” by the “truly disgraceful” protests against the “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game,” adding that he will not be “silenced.”
On Wednesday the University of Texas at Austin chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) plans to host a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game.” According to its Facebook page, students will have to find a person “walking around the UT campus with the label ‘illegal immigrant’ on their clothing” and then turn that person in to a YCT table for a $25 gift card reward.
YCT will be having a "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" event this upcoming Wednesday. The details of the game goes as follows:
There will be several people walking around the UT campus with the label "illegal immigrant" on their clothing. Any UT student who catches one of these "illegal immigrants" and brings them back to our table will receive a $25 gift card.
The purpose of this event is to spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration, and how it affects our everyday lives.
Last month, the same group hosted an Affirmative Action bake sale which charged students different prices based on their race and gender. Think Progress notes that other right-wing youth groups have hosted similar events in the past.
In an email to supporters today, Gheen claims that Republican supporters of immigration reform, including Karl Rove, Michael Bloomberg and Lindsey Graham (with whom Gheen has an interesting history) have “blood on all of their hands” because of their support of “the costly and deadly illegal alien invasion of our American homeland.” In fact, Gheen writes, these Republicans have “hatched and executed” a “plot on our Republic.”
Gheen offers another thinly veiled hint at violence, saying he will use “what is left of our peaceful political systems” to “throw them down.”
If our plan to Stop Amnesty 2013 succeeds, these treacherous lawmakers' plan will be to lay low on the issue through the filing period to try to stop groups like us from generating the focus, interest, energy, and funds needed to mount organized primary challengers.
Over the next 3 days, you will be making it very clear to these illegal alien amnesty supporting lawmakers that we are organized and ready to take on Karl Rove, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Lindsey Graham, and every other supporter of the costly and deadly illegal alien invasion of our American homeland.
There is blood on all of their hands and we are going to use what is left of our peaceful political systems in America to throw them down despite their insane advantages of wealth and power!
As you read this e-mail, I am riding into Washington, DC, today to do my very best on your behalf.
Thank you so much to each of you who will support our ground effort with your calls. Thank you to all of the donors to ALIPAC who are making this lobbying trip to DC at a very important strategic time possible.
Let's all do our very best to defeat Amnesty and put those who hatched and executed this plot against our Republic on permanent retreat!
Today’s Heritage Foundation event featured conservative evangelicals who are unhappy with other evangelicals who are promoting comprehensive immigration reform. Our “who’s who” of the speakers turned out to be a good guide to what they had to say. Speakers repeatedly (falsely) characterized the Senate immigration bill as “amnesty.”
James Hoffmeier, author of a book on immigration and the Bible, said he objects to people using the Bible to talk about immigration “the wrong way” and “misuse the scriptures to advance a cause.” He argues that undocumented immigrants are not the kind of people referred to in Bible verses about being welcoming to strangers.
Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy griped about mainline denominations demonstrating a lack of concern for border security. He credited evangelicals endorsing comprehensive immigration reform for citing a need for border security, but criticized them for supporting the “mass legalization” in the Senate bill, which he characterized as legalization first, border security later.
Kelly Kullberg organized Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration as a counter to the Evangelical Immigration Table, which energetically backs the Senate bill. She is also, like Tooley, a founder of Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE), a group that criticized Christians calling themselves the “Circle of Protection,” who had argued against cuts to federal programs that serve the poor. (In a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders, CASE asked, “Whom would Jesus indebt?” and declared “The Good Samaritan did not use a government credit card.”) Kullberg made similar points about the immigration bill, saying America is a “near-bankrupt welfare state living on borrowed money” and cannot afford “amnesty” and “an influx of foreign labor.” She said “Kindness to foreigners should not be theft or injustice to citizens.” She also said that nowhere in scripture do we see “blanket amnesty or asylum.”
Carol Swain, right-wing author and law professor, argued that Christians should support respect for the rule of law. Swain warned “We’re welcoming people who totally reject who we are as a people,” and said we create problems for ourselves “if we bring in people who are not easily assimilated.” She declared, “There is no place in America for Sharia law in the U.S. Constitution.” But Swain said she favors immigration reform if it is done the “right way” and encouraged people to read her book, Be the People, to find out how.
It has been 140 days of inaction since the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that moves us closer to addressing our broken immigration system. But all of this progress has stalled in the GOP-led House, where they have chosen to align with extremists in their party rather than with business, civic and faith groups across the political spectrum that support reform.
This was made clear earlier this week, when Speaker Boehner confirmed that he has “no intentions of every going to conference” with the Senate on its bipartisan immigration legislation, once again showing where House leadership takes its cues. In a report released earlier this summer, PFAW laid out the clear choices facing Republicans as the pressing need for serious immigration fixes looms over families and our economy. While there is a lack of will to act on the part of House GOP leadership, immigration reform activists around the country are not sitting passively by. We are speaking up, planning actions, and calling out those who continue to stand in the way of common-sense reform.
Phyllis Schlafly appeared on Crosstalk last week, where she went through her usual argument about why Latino immigrants don’t make good Americans because they are less likely to vote Republican and hold conservative political views. She told host Jim Schneider that immigrants used to “be proud to be an American” and “became good people,” unlike “the people who are coming in now” who “don’t agree with the fundamentals of America.”
Schlafly also warned that immigration authorities are allowing Muslim immigrants to practice polygamy and have “a bunch of wives who will now go on our welfare.” She also agreed with a caller who said that the Obama administration will bring in tens of millions of Muslim immigrants in order to impose Sharia law.
Schlafly: I would like to know if our immigration authorities are letting in people who believe in polygamy. Polygamy is against our law. We’ve brought in thousands of Muslims; I want to know if they made them sign a pledge to assure they’re not bringing in a bunch of wives who will now go on our welfare. Nobody can answer that question, I can’t get any answers to that question.
Caller: See anything that Obama’s had on the front burner so far has destroyed this country and is ripping it away, and we also can’t forget about when we bring in with this amnesty bill these illegal Mexicans and whoever else wants to come in, we’re going to bring in 40-50 million Muslims with them all to destroy our constitution. I think people should keep that in mind and we’ll be under Sharia law shortly.
Schlafly: It is true. They’ve brought in lots of Muslims and in fact they’ve brought a lot into the St. Louis area where I live. Get somebody to answer the question: do you make sure they’re not bringing polygamists in?
Just in case where you were wondering where the figure of 40-50 million Muslims comes from, a regular Crosstalk guest Avi Lipkin claims President Obama plans to “bring in 50-100 million Muslims” in order to impose Sharia law.
Responding to another caller who told a story of undocumented immigrants using phony Social Security numbers in order to find employment, Schlafly added that “a lot of them get on the highway drunk and kill people too.”
WASHINGTON – House Speaker John Boehner announced yesterday that he has “no intention of ever going to conference” with the Senate on its bipartisan immigration legislation, and implied that he would take an ineffective, piecemeal approach to the issue.
Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, responded to Boehner’s remarks:
“Once again, Speaker Boehner is choosing to stand with the extremist minority of his party over the wishes of the majority of Americans and the long-term health of our country.
“It is stunning that Boehner sees no hurry to fix the moral crisis of a broken immigration system that tears families apart and leaves millions of futures in limbo. Not only is improving our immigration laws a moral imperative, it has the support of business, civic and faith groups from across the political spectrum.
“Yet Boehner has chosen to stand with Rep. Steve King and his Hate Caucus over the common-sense interests of Americans. Is this what the GOP’s ‘rebranding’ looks like?”
Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli appears to be paying the price for his anti-immigrant record. Cuccinelli backed Arizona’s draconian SB 1070 as the state attorney general and as a state senator he proposed several bills targeting immigrants and non-English speakers, and even equated US immigration policy to pest control. Cuccinelli’s harsh comparison was captured in this Spanish-language ad sponsored by People For the American Way:
While Cuccinelli’s nativism may have appealed to the Tea Party fringe, it has upset Latino voters — already alienated by the GOP’s extremist stance on immigration — and the majority of voters who back immigration reform.
But judging by interviews with Latino voters on Tuesday, the ad — which aired heavily on Spanish-language television in the weeks leading up to the election — resonated.
“He talks about our community with no respect,” said Umberto Adrian, a Manassas resident who was born in Bolivia and has lived in Virginia for 30 of his 60 years. “I can’t understand why a professional like him would refer to immigrants as if they are not human.”
Some Latino voters who said they were spurred to action by the commercial appeared to have their own interpretations of what Cuccinelli actually said.
“Cuccinelli called Hispanic people rats,” said Mary Alba, 74, a retired bakery worker. “I want people in office who know we need immigrant people. In this country we need people like immigrants, who work hard.”
Pedro Delcid, 40, perceived the remark in a slightly different, but equally derogatory, way. “This man was talking bad about our people. He said we reproduce like rats,” said Delcid, who lives in Manassas. “This is the one issue that brought me here today. I have an issue with the way he talks about immigrants.”
It’s not just anecdotal evidence either, as new polling from Latino Decisions sponsored by PFAW and America’s Voice reveals the extent of the damage from the GOP’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy positions:
Immigration weighs heavily in Latino and Asians’ voting decisions. Over half (53%) of Latinos rank immigration as the most important issue facing the Latino community that politicians should address. While the Asian community put other issues first, their voting choices are influenced by a candidate’s position on immigration reform. When asked about the role of immigration in their voting decisions, 53% of Latinos and 46% of Asians said it was either “the most important issue” or “one of the most important issues” in their “decision to vote, and who to vote for.”
Cuccinelli’s hardline immigration hurt not only him, but the Republican Party overall. After hearing a statement from Cuccinelli comparing immigrant families to rat families, 70% of Latinos and 59% of Asians said it made them look less favorably on the Republican Party as a whole. The comments were most salient to foreign-born Latinos and US-born Asians, who said it made them view the GOP more negatively at a rate of 75% and 74% respectively. After learning that Cuccinelli sponsored a bill as state Senator that would allow employers to fire any workers who did not speak English, 75% of Latinos and 67% of Asians said this made them less favorable to the Republican Party as a whole.
Added Gary Segura, Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies, Stanford University and Co-Founder of Latino Decisions, "Hostility to immigrants--once a political wedge that worked for Republicans--has clearly now become an Achilles' heel for the Party. Latinos and Asians, climbing towards 10% of the electorate in Virginia, are clearly and profoundly put off by GOP rhetoric on this litmus-test issue for these immigrant-heavy communities. Continued antagonism toward immigration reform has the potential to erode or erase GOP competitiveness in this important and growing purple state."
Immigration reform activists and President Obama have renewed the push for Congress to act on much-needed immigration legislation this year. We now see new movement as three Republicans have joined numerous Democrats in the House in co-sponsoring legislation that moves us closer to reform.
The question to ask going forward is whether House Republican leaders will side with extreme right-wing voices -- the same voices that shut down government -- or the majority of Americans who support a bi-partisan solution. It’s a clear choice and Republican leaders in the House have the power to move reform forward. All of this is laid out in People For’s recent Right Wing Watch report: Congressional Republicans' Clear Choice on Immigration.
Conservative activist Kelly Monroe Kullberg recently formed Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration as a response to the pro-reform Evangelical Immigration Table, and her new organization has received support from immigration critics like the American Family Association.
Like other Religious Right groups such as Eagle Forum and Family Research Council, the AFA is a staunch opponent of immigration reform and spokesman Bryan Fischer has even called for the US to require that all immigrations convert to Christianity and enforce a ban on Muslim immigration.
AFA talk show host Sandy Rios spoke to Kullberg this week about the supposed dangers of the Senate reform bill, including the laughable claim that the legislation will lead to “open borders” and therefore a rise in sex and human trafficking.
She also warned that people of “other faiths” and “incompatibly worldviews,” especially Muslims, will flood into America and “lessen the value on human life” in the US, making sex trafficking more acceptable. “As Islam takes root in America and other traditions take root, we are seeing a decline in human worth, human value and a rise in trafficking,” Kullberg said.