It’s a Scary World: Immigration Opponents Teaming with Tea Party Activists

As grassroots support for the pro-immigration reform March for America grows, anti-immigration groups and their allies are trying to use racial tension to stop the momentum. Opposition groups like NumbersUSA and the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC announced plans this week to partner with Tea Party activists in response to the event, which is expected to draw as many as 100,000 people to the National Mall on March 21.

Their hope? To scare the public into opposing a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

NumbersUSA, a mainstream group that was instrumental in defeating reform in 2007, has discussed the idea of calling immigrant women from Mexico “the new welfare queens,” while others are spreading paranoia that immigrants are trying to “steal the next election.” The White House is holding a bipartisan meeting on immigration legislation this week and the possibility of reform is worrying opponents. They are now desperately attempting to block reform by appealing to frustration and fear.

Amplifying hate

Along with actions to flood Congress with phone calls and faxes, anti-immigration forces are also spreading misinformation and proposing ways to dehumanize immigrant communities. As Stephanie Mencimer notes in Mother Jones, operatives on the far right are pushing a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is using immigration to steal the 2012 election.

The magazine reports that the WorldNet Daily, a publication which bills itself as “conservative news website,” has come up with an elaborate scheme in which a secret “illegal immigrant registration” will “open the floodgates to fraud.” That’s despite the fact that undocumented immigrants are legally barred from voting in the first place.

On top of that, in a conference call organized by anti-immigration group NumbersUSA, an organization that is routinely quoted by the mainstream media to oppose reform, participants suggested calling immigrant mothers with Mexican heritage “the new welfare queens.” As I report for Campus Progress, NumbersUSA, which worked to kill immigration reform in 2007, held the call this week to coordinate actions against the immigration march.

“I feel the new welfare queen in America today is women coming from Mexico with a bunch of babies,” said one caller.In response, NumbersUSA conference moderator Chad MacDonald said “Thank you very much. I appreciate that.”

Right after that, another caller suggested that anti-immigration activists not use the word “babies,” because it was “emotional.” Said the conference participant, “They aren’t babies. They’re dependents. … They have dependents. We have babies.” While NumbersUSA claims to be against “immigrant bashing,” they made no efforts to stop the hateful statements that their supporters spewed over the phone.

Smart politics

While incendiary rhetoric from immigration opponents is alarming, Kai Wright writes in The Nation that such radicalism could be a good impetus for Democrats to embrace immigration reform. “The great thing about racists is they’ll always take the bait,” claims Wright. “You won’t get far into an immigration-reform debate, for instance, before the GOP’s more zealous legislators start doing things like criminalizing priests and calling Miami a ‘third world country.’”

Politically, most Americans will probably be turned off by hateful and racist language used during the immigration debate, much like they were during the lead up to the confirmation of Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In the end, the disgust factor could end up helping Democrats—if they let it.

“Immigration reform is an issue where Democrats are served better politically by picking a fight with the GOP than running from one,” Wright explains. “The long-term politics are plain: Latino communities nationwide are young, growing and increasingly ready to show up at the polls. And the certain-to-be xenophobic reaction of the GOP’s loudest voices today will not only motive Latinos this November, it will alienate independent voters as well.”

Out of patience

This week, pro-reform grassroots groups held a press conference on Monday to denounce what they said was increased enforcement under the Obama administration, as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reported at least a 5% increase in deportations for 2009. New America Media reports that advocates at the press meeting pointed out that “livelihoods were lost, local economies affected, and families split apart.”

“These are the same enforcement practices that we marched against during the Bush administration,” said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, who was quoted by New America Media. The outlet also notes that advocacy groups “contended that the immigration audits or ‘paper raids’ that have replaced workplace raids under Obama are just as damaging to immigrant communities and the businesses that depend on them.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

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photo credit: thanks to MikeSchinkel via flickr for the pic
By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger


Jaymes B.
Jaymes B7 years ago

What is brutal, especially after the loss of Kennedy, that immigration has become equated to ILLEGAL immigration! The two are NOT the same. I will be up front and say that I have an ax to grind over this issue. I was not able to bring my same sex partner, who has years of demonstrated work history and value with Wal-Mart (a company willing to transfer him to a local store in the U.S.) because legal immigration law does not cover same sex marriage. =/ However ... anyone who can creep across the border (North or South) and have a baby or take on a less than minimum-wage job is spotlighted for "amnesty"?

No. That is wrong on so many levels that I can not even fully comprehend the idea. The idea that men and women who can completely apply for LEGAL immigration should be refused because of their sexual orientation while creepers are granted safe haven ... it's sick. You may as well tell petty thieves that it's okay to break and enter as long as they live in the home for long enough! It's just plain ill.

Sorry, but before you get all high and mighty and clever ... tell me how I can get my LEGAL spouse (same sex but acknowledged under U.S./Canadian treaty) can be LEGALLY prevented to immigrate but people sneaking across the borders illegally can be granted citizenship????

Basically, and this is rough ... an American fag has less value than a non-American illegal. Yes, that's a simplification but ... it's true. At least, it feels true. =(

Thomas Klein
Thomas Klein7 years ago

idiots are idiots. around our planet. sad.

Roger H.
.7 years ago

Robert P.,
I signed the petition. Thanks.

robert p.
robert p7 years ago

check out this site if your against amnisty

robert p.
robert p7 years ago

illegals are just that illegal. they are milking our system and society. the dislike is not racial so please stop with that card. its the principal of the matter. that idiot reagan did give amnisty once, there was where it all started. enforce our laws. illegals be gone. race or creed makes no differance,.

robert p.
robert p7 years ago

Roger H.
.7 years ago

The term "undocumented workers" is using the assumption that all illegal immigrants come to the US to work. This term is so far from the truth. While some illegal immigrants do sneak into the US to find work, many more of them come here to take advantage of our entitlement programs, transport drugs for the Mexican drug cartels and get free health care that even US citizens can't get. The migrant workers that came to the US in past history came legally with work visas (documented workers). I am not racist in the least, because illegal immigrants can be of any race. I realize that it is not fair to lump all illegal immigrants into the same classification because of problems with human trafficking, but if they are here illegally because of their own actions and aren't a victim of human trafficking or are political exiles, they are criminals and should be treated like any other criminal. We have been one of the most lenient countries in our handling of the illegal immigrant issue (that is why they choose to come here) and it is time to crack down on the problem, like other countries have.
Contrary to popular belief, Tea Party members are from all across the political spectrum from ultra conservatives to ultra liberals and are from all races and ethnicity's. They are fiscal conservatives and believe both parties have strayed away form the Constitution and the principles that America was founded on. Many of the tea party members are becoming involved in politics for the first time

Christiane Wawrok

These two groups fit together..

Trish H.
Anne H7 years ago

Illegal is illegal. Being illegal and using a child to legitimize your situation is not okay and should not make the offender legal. The offenders and family would be deported and the person born in the US could apply for reentry when 18. Allowing illegals has cheapened the value of citizenship. Companies/persons who hire illegals should be given a hefty fine. Maybe $2000/person would be a good wake up call.

That being said I am an American living abroad. I must pay taxes to the US wherever I work on the planet. Sometimes I must also pay my host country. It is my responsibility to renew my visa documents or I will be processed for deportation and it becomes very expensive. There is little I can do without showing documentation (banks, property rental, internet). I must carry a national ID card. I am not eligible for any social programs or health insurance. It is most likely I would be detained in jail until deported and the jails are below standard of anything in the US. Hopefully I would be safe and have basic hygiene accomodations.

We would have some shortages in certain jobs but we could fill them by requiring persons to do a work program in exchange for aid. Not pleasant but it would sure motivate persons to get off aid and get a better job. It would also give persons a chance to earn their healthcare or payment for utility bills. They would also be eligible for education and limited in the amount of time in the program.

Magdalena M.
Magdalena M7 years ago

sorry I meant : if illegal immigrants are thieves.