The anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has seemingly endorsed the mission statement of the fervently anti-Muslim English Defense League (EDL). James Rhodes made his first contribution to CIS’ website with an August 27 blog post titled, “Home Sweet Home.” In it, Rhodes discusses the supposed issue immigrants in the United Kingdom have with assimilation. The blog concludes with a lengthy excerpt from the EDL’s mission statement. By ascribing group labels such as “fringe” and “dubious,” Rhodes attempts to distance CIS from the EDL’s extremism.
However, those two descriptors stand in stark contrast to the EDL’s history of street-level violence and populist appeals to nationalism.
CIS providing a platform for the EDL’s anti-Muslim rhetoric is unsurprising given its executive director Mark Krikorian’s affiliations with noted anti-Muslim activists such as Frank Gaffney and his history of anti-Muslim remarks that include claiming Muslims represent “a threat to liberty” and are “vicious people.” Yet CIS’s recent upholding of the EDL’s mission statement — evidenced by Rhodes’ quoting of it in full — is only one of the more recent instances of the continued confluence of messaging between nativists of varying stripes.
As Congress reconvenes in Washington next week, a watchful eye must be placed on the relationships of these groups and their collaborative attempts to influence lawmakers by rallying the grassroots.
Over the years, representatives of the anti-Muslim group ACT! for America have held and continue to hold events with the aim of growing its base. By speaking at Tea Party meetings and partnering with various chapters of far-Right groups such as the Eagle Forum to orchestrate demonstrations and lobbying campaigns, ACT! has successfully created a prominent base for its grassroots efforts to foment anti-Muslim bigotry in America.
At large, Tea Party and other grassroots groups identify with the conservative immigration policies that the anti-immigrant movement has pushed for decades. This is precisely why anti-immigrant activists such as Susan Tully, National Field Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), have given presentations to Tea Party groups across the country and prominent Tea Party darlings have been slated to appear at anti-immigrant events this year. However, broader Tea Party groups’ primary focus on fiscal issues has not led to the groundswell of support the nativist movement has been hoping for. The underwhelming turnout at July’s DC March for Jobs and the dwindling number of events organized by groups like the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA) and NumbersUSA, which have catered to Tea Party activists by design, evidence a relatively unfocused and disengaged supporter base.
Despite the low participation rate at these events, the impact of these outreach efforts should not be ignored. By appealing to the inherent nativism of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant activists, the anti-immigrant movement could still cultivate a base with an ability to obstruct progress or even derail any semblance of a meaningful policy debate.
As CIS noted, populist groups like the EDL certainly are fringe and dubious-if “fringe” and “dubious” impart “violent” and “racist.” (They don’t.)
Rhodes’s description, however, aptly describe the EDL’s American contemporaries in organizations such as ACT!, FAIR, BALA-and his own, CIS. That said, such a coalition of groups certainly do have the ears of extremist legislators in the House who can and often do assist in attempts to ratify the anti-immigrant movement’s ultimate goal of obstructing the passage of any positive immigration reform legislation. These efforts cannot be allowed to succeed and must be countered by those working for reform that strengthens our communities, not divides them.