The anti-immigrant movement is now getting some assistance from the organized Islamophobia movement. Yesterday, the country’s largest Islamophobic grassroots organization, ACT! for America, introduced a petition to declare its “strong opposition to S. 744, immigration legislation now under consideration by the U.S. Senate.”
In the past, ACT! has focused its efforts on many anti-Muslim conspiracies familiar to anyone aware of the Islamophobia movement. “Whether the specific threat is violent jihad, stealth jihad, the advance of sharia law, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the scourge of political correctness which is enabling the rise of radical Islam,” its website states, “ACT! for America stands ready to take action as the largest national security grassroots organization in America.”
With S. 744 being introduced in the Senate as soon as next week, It only seemed to be a matter of time before ACT! would redirect its anti-Muslim messaging towards an equally nativist anti-immigrant stance. This becomes more apparent when one looks at the legislative allies the organization has, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA) – two anti-immigrant stalwarts in the U.S. House that held a press conference in opposition to S. 744 last month.
During the conference, Gohmert likely appealed to many ACT! members when he warned of terrorists assuming “Hispanic-sounding names” and coming across the border. Gohmert is also known for sounding the alarm about “terror babies” – a modified version of anti-immigrant arguments against birthright citizenship specially designed for anti-Muslim activists.
ACT!’s position on S. 744 was already known to some after founder and president Brigitte Gabriel signed a letter opposing the bill. Other signees include anti-Muslim leaders David Horowitz, Frank Gaffney and Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The petition however, firmly establishes the organization as aligning with anti-immigrant groups.
The anti-immigrant movement’s primary grassroots arm, NumbersUSA, has been working to undermine reform efforts for years. This year is no different as the organization continues to circulate petitions and, most recently, run an 18-state ad campaign in opposition to the bill. NumbersUSA’s efforts recently have targeted economic aspects of the debate, whereas ACT! will focus on national security. Each organization has a particular focus with which to attain their shared goal of derailing reform. ACT!’s presence will likely fuel attempts during Senate floor debates to resurface many of the security amendments that failed in committee meetings. Obstructionist senators like Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will surely heed ACT! supporters’ words as he and his anti-immigrant allies in the Senate continue working to derail the legislation.
By announcing its opposition to S. 744, ACT! for America has joined the ranks of the modern day anti-immigrant movement. Collaborations and overlap between the anti-immigrant and Islamophobia movements have occurred before and will likely continue. This instance only further illustrates how similar in ideology the two are. In a 2010 interview with Red State, Brigitte Gabriel claimed “We are building the NRA of national security. When our members roar, capital hill [sic] shakes.”
Lawmakers and citizens both must recognize that the voice ACT! lends to the immigration debate is the same nativist opposition in a different bigoted package.