For a full report, please see Immigrants Targeted: Extremist Rhetoric Moves into the Mainstream (PDF).
Immigration remains a deeply polarizing issue in American politics and public life. Serious policy questions remain about the best way to reform America’s immigration system but the debate has also been framed, at times, by vitriolic anti-immigrant – and particularly anti-Latino – rhetoric and propaganda. Purveyors of this extremist rhetoric use stereotypes and outright bigotry to target immigrants and hold them responsible for numerous societal ills.
Unlike the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, who make no attempt to hide their racism and bigotry, these anti-immigrant groups and coalitions often use more subtle language to demonize immigrants and foreigners. They are frequently quoted in the media, have been called to testify before Congress, and often hold meetings with lawmakers and other public figures. However, under the guise of warning people about the impact of illegal immigration, anti-immigrant advocates often invoke the same dehumanizing, racist stereotypes as hate groups. And increasingly, they do not make a distinction between illegal and legal immigrants.
A closer look at the public record reveals that some of these supposedly mainstream organizations have disturbing links to, or relationships with, extremists in the anti-immigration movement. Often identified in the media or their mission statements as “anti-illegal immigration advocacy groups,” they attempt to distort the debate over immigration by fomenting fear and spreading unfounded propaganda through the use of several key tactics: