Over the past few months, the established anti-immigrant movement in the United States has shifted its messaging by focusing on terrorism and national security. The movement is trying to capitalize on Americans’ renewed fears of terrorism by linking these fears with the issue of immigration. The most important catalyst for this shift is the media attention to the barbaric actions taken by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East.
The anti-immigrant movement is already steeped in anti-Muslim sentiment. With the shift towards linking immigration and terrorism has come a renewed attack on Muslim immigration to this country. For example, many anti-immigrant activists are linking ISIS to Muslim immigration to the U.S. Some anti-immigrant groups have gone as far as to try and link the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma, allegedly committed by an American convert to Islam, with the issue of immigration.
Anti-immigrant groups also continue to use the issue of terrorism to push back against any form of executive action from President Obama to help undocumented immigrants. They claim that terrorists will also benefit from these orders.
Linking ISIS and Immigration
Anti-immigrant groups attempt to link the terrorist group ISIS to the issue of immigration in a number of ways. In a blog posted on September 8, a fellow for the anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) argued that Senator John McCain’s support of the Senate’s immigration reform bill S-744 in 2013 “has provided ISIS with unfettered access to the United States for both its personnel and their weapons of death and destruction.” The blog concluded with the statement, “Should ISIS or some other terrorist group take advantage of McCain’s welcome mat, he will only have himself to blame as he goes in the eyes of many from war hero to collaborator.”
The anti-immigrant grassroots organization NumbersUSA and the California-based Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) both sent fundraising emails to activists in recent weeks linking ISIS to immigration and national security. On October 5, the Tea Party Immigration Coalition headed by racist Rick Oltman circulated an article by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller on its Facebook page with the caption, “We are witnessing a PERFECT STORM: ISIS<EBOLA<MUSLIMS IN AMERICA<MUSLIMS IN AMERICA…” Michael Cutler, a CAPS senior writing fellow, wrote a blog for the organization stating, “…semantic games do not actually solve problems or protect America or Americans from the threats posed by terrorist groups, such as ISIS, and transnational criminal organizations.”
The extreme anti-immigrant group American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF) also connected terrorism to immigration in its September 18 newsletter. The newsletter asserted, “Reports arrive daily of ISIS and other Islamic terrorists gathering at our southern border with plans to sneak across with the goal of executing a wave of car bombings in the U.S. Should this happen, President Obama's inept foreign policy and downright criminal domestic policy would combine into a perfect storm of terror for American citizens in their own country.”
Objecting to Increases in Muslim Immigration
The anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim movements in America are closely aligned due to their shared worldviews and goals. Since the shift towards linking immigration and terrorism, there has been an increase anti-Muslim rhetoric and a renewed focus on Muslim immigration from these two movements.
CIS published a report on September 25, claiming the United States' immigration population reached a record 41.3 million. The report claims immigrants from “Middle Eastern, Asian and Caribbean nations” lead the growth over the past three years. In a follow-up report published on October 6, CIS claimed the number of Arabic speakers increased by 22 percent and Urdu speakers by 12 percent over the past three years. In response to the report, many right-wing media outlets published news stories citing the report’s data and argued that immigrants from predominately Muslim countries have dominated immigration growth over the past three years. Many local anti-immigrant groups also used the report to highlight increases in Muslim immigration.
In a column for National Review Online after CIS published the first report, executive director Mark Krikorian again voiced his opposition to Muslim immigration to the United States, stating, “Why has the government permitted the number of Saudi immigrants in the U.S. to double in just three years?… Why are we going to ‘greatly expand resettlement for Syrian refugees’?” At the second National Security Action Summit in Washington, D.C., on September 29, Rosemary Jenks from NumbersUSA also attacked the move to relocate Syrian refugees to the United States. Jenks claimed the refugees could be supporters of ISIS.
In his October 3 column for the right-wing conspiracy-orientated website News With Views, anti-immigrant extremist Frosty Wooldridge, an advisory board member of the extreme anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), wrote, “We suffer beheadings of our own citizens at the hands of our fresh new Muslim citizens swarming in from all over the Middle East and from Africa. We read about honor killings, FGM and arranged marriages, but we keep importing the very religion and culture that sponsors violent death.”
Linking the Beheading in Oklahoma to Immigration/Terrorism
On September 25, a recent convert to Islam, allegedly beheaded his former co-worker in Moore, Oklahoma. Anti-immigrant groups picked up on the story and attempted to tie it to the issues of terrorism and immigration, despite the fact that the alleged killer is an American citizen.
In response to the killing, Frosty Wooldridge wrote in his column for News With Views, “Without a doubt, Americans face an Islamic disaster, self-inflicted, to reach a showdown of Western thought, women's rights, free speech and free choice----against Mohammed the Prophet for Allah.”
Mark Krikorian brought up the Oklahoma beheading in his speech at the National Security Action Summit. Krikorian criticized increases in Muslim immigration to the United States and linked the Oklahoma killing to a terrorist act, stating, “We’re going to continue to be surprised, when someone plots to blow up the Capitol, when some in arrested for trying to fly a plane into a federal building, when someone engages in workplace violence and beheads his coworkers because he converted to Islam.”
Claiming Executive Actions Will Aid Terrorists
The number one goal of the anti-immigrant movement is to prevent immigration reform from passing at the national level. Due to the failure of the House to advance immigration reform bill S 744 passed in the Senate last year, the anti-immigrant movement has shifted its efforts to attempting to stop President Obama from issuing any executive orders to provide relief for undocumented immigrants. With executive action anticipated following the midterm elections, the anti-immigrant groups are also arguing that any executive action will help terrorists.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), a retiring representative and a close friend of the anti-immigrant movement, told Breitbart News on September 27 that she believes some terrorists will benefit from an executive order on immigration granted by President Obama. Bachmann stated, “He’s going to give full-scale amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, which by the way would include terrorists who are currently in this country who came in illegally. This is a travesty of historic proportions and the president of the United States will completely destroy his presidency if he does it—but he doesn’t care.”
During her speech at the Homeland Security Action Summit, Rosemary Jenks claimed there was no question that terrorists have entered the United States from Mexico. Jenks went on to claim that the President’s executive action would provide “amnesty” for “gangbangers” and “terrorists.” At the same event, Mark Krikorian stated, “Mass immigration, even legal immigration, undermines our security interests in the modern world.” Krikorian took this a step further, claiming that increases in immigration result in a replenishing of communities that serve as “incubators” for terrorists.
On September 19, Michael Cutler echoed Krikrorian’s comments in an interview for Newsmax TV. Cutler stated, “Sanctuary cities is doing precisely that — providing safe haven (for terrorists), right here in cities across the United States, aided and abetted by this administration that refuses to enforce the laws, and has provided hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens with identity documents."