As immigration reform makes gains, the anti-immigrant movement is reverting to an old tactic of creating front groups to feign support for their policies by minority groups.
Throughout its history, the anti-immigrant movement in the United States has struggled to gain the backing of minorities, most notably African Americans and Hispanics. There are many reasons for this difficulty attracting minorities, most significantly the movement’s ties to eugenics and the racism promoted by some activists within the movement, as well as its continued use of rhetoric demonizing people of color. In addition, there are very few people of color on the staff and boards of the major anti-immigrant groups in the country. In order to address the issue of little support from minorities, the anti-immigrant movement has turned to creating “front-groups” made up of anti-immigrant activists who claim to represent the views of the community as a whole.
The organization playing the leading role in this effort to create these groups is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an extreme anti-immigrant group founded by the racist John Tanton. In the past, FAIR helped to form Choose Black America (CBA); a small grouping of African Americans who claimed that immigration had a detrimental effect on their community. FAIR also helped to create You Don’t Speak for Me (YDSFM), a group of Latinos opposed to undocumented immigration. Neither group had a major impact on the immigration debate and aside from a few press conferences and rallies, the groups essentially became dormant.
Following the 2012 Presidential elections, a renewed push for immigration reform began in earnest when a bi-partisan group of eight senators known as the “Gang of Eight” came together to draft an immigration reform bill. The senators introduced the bill on April 16 and the anti-immigrant movement is currently attempting to derail the bill in a variety of ways. One lesser-known tactic it is employing is to revive YDSFM and CBA under different names but with many of the same players from previous incarnations. The new groups, named Alliance for Immigration Justice (AIJ) and the African American Leadership Council (AALC), are becoming more active as the immigration debate moves into high gear.
The AALC, modeled after CBA, held a press conference on April 24 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. calling on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to “protect black labor by opposing amnesty and halting efforts to double immigration levels, as required under the bill.” At the press conference, several African-American leaders with close ties to the anti-immigrant movement presented remarks. Frank Morris, a long-time anti-immigrant activist who sits on the boards of FAIR, Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) called the bill “devastating.”
Leah Durant, a former attorney at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of FAIR, and the current executive director of PFIR, echoed comments made by many of the anti-immigrant groups after the introduction of the bill. During her remarks, Durant claimed, “We are looking at a bill that will essentially double annual U.S. immigration levels. Double the number of people coming to the country.”
Both Durant and Morris failed to mention their extensive ties to the anti-immigrant movement during their speeches. The press release announcing the National Press Club event also failed to mention their affiliations.
AIJ, founded in January 2013, is the anti-immigrant movement’s attempt to revive a group similar to YDSFM. AIJ’s mission statement notes, “Alliance for Immigration Justice is a group of immigrants, naturalized citizens and law abiding citizens who believe illegal immigration harms America.” The mission statement goes on to claim, “We hold elected representatives responsible to their sworn oath to faithful [sic] execute the law and for strengthening the respect for the rule of law by not rewarding individuals who have violated the laws.” AIJ’s “resource page” on its website links to the website of a number of anti-immigrant groups including CIS, FAIR and NumbersUSA.
Many of the leaders of the group are also closely tied to the anti-immigrant movement. Carmen Morales, YDSFM’s former vice-chair, is an AIJ board member. Rosanna Pulido, another former member of YDSFM and a former organizer for FAIR, has a history of making bigoted remarks about Muslims, the LGBT community and Mexicans. According to a 2010 article in the Chicago Sun Times, Pulido made posts on a right-wing website that said that Muslims praying are like dogs “sniffing buts” [sic] and that a part of the Mexican culture is “to rip off people.” She also once attacked the LGBT community in a post stating, “Face it, it’s better to be in a meat packing town than in a fudge packing town.”
Luis Pozzolo is the founder of AIJ. He is also a director of the Kentucky-based group Americans for Lawful Immigrant Solutions Today (ALIST). Pozzolo attended FAIR’s most recent Hold Their Feet to the Fire event in Washington, D.C. on April 17-18, 2013. The event brings together anti-immigrant activists, figures, radio hosts and immigration restrictionist members of Congress in an effort to influence the immigration debate.
Tony Dolz is an AIJ board member with ties to the more extreme elements of the anti-immigrant movement. In the mid-2000’s, Dolz served as the chapter leader of the Los Angeles Minutemen. Dolz spoke at numerous anti-immigrant events in the mid-2000s with members of the anti-Hispanic hate group California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR), Minutemen groups and FAIR. He also participated in FAIR’s Hold Their Feet to the Fire event in 2007.
The anti-immigrant movement’s talking points and tactics during the current immigration debate are remarkably similar to the ones used during the last major push for immigration reform in 2007. Reestablishing and buttressing front groups is an example of the movement’s repeat tactics. These groups do not represent the African-American or Hispanic communities in the United States; rather they are promoting the views of the anti-immigrant movement through a few members who belong to those minority communities.
In response to the AALC press conference, Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, summed up AALC succinctly, stating, “Actual civil rights leaders view immigration reform as a defining civil and human rights issue of our time. The opinions expressed in today’s press conference are not shared by most African-Americans, civil rights leaders, members of the Congressional Black Caucus or any other significant constituency in the African-American community."