Congress’ August recess, where elected officials in Washington return to their districts to hear from their constituencies on various issues, is now in its second week. Given recent legislative hearings and the Senate vote to pass a reform bill, immigration is one of the most prominent issues being discussed during the recess. Accordingly, the organized anti-immigrant movement will attempt to influence lawmakers in their districts utilizing a coordinated message and set of tactics. They are also bringing some new allies from the far-right along for the uphill battle against immigration reform.
On August 12 Roy Beck spoke at a townhall event in Richmond, Virginia. The event was co-sponsored by Beck’s NumbersUSA, along with Tea Party Patriots and the Eagle Forum. The event is the first stop in what has been labeled the “Stop Amnesty Tour.”
According to the Breitbart News – the anti-immigrant movement’s most supportive ally in the media – the event’s location was strategically placed near the districts of Reps. Cantor and Goodlatte, whose positions as House Majority Whip and Judiciary Committee Chairman, respectively, place them in prominent roles during the ongoing debate over immigration in the House.
The anti-immigrant movement has directed its efforts towards influencing House Republican leaders in hopes that they will block any efforts to fix the country’s broken immigration system. In addition to Cantor and Goodlatte, Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) are of particular focus.
The Virginia townhall is the next step in a growing collaboration between the three groups sponsoring the event. In May, Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA participated in an Eagle Forum conference call. In June, NumbersUSA produced a webcast detailing the organizations efforts to derail reform legislation in the Senate. NumbersUSA’s Roy Beck and Chris Chmielenski were joined by Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin and Eagle Forum Executive Director Colleen Holcomb during the webcast filmed at NumbersUSA’s office. Tom Broadwater of the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA) was also present during the taping. BALA has also been promoting the Stop Amnesty Tour event in Richmond – in part because founding BALA members Leah Durant and Frank Morris are scheduled speakers.
While BALA is assisting with the Stop Amnesty Tour, it is also currently organizing its own day of events across the country. Originally conceived to influence the aforementioned House Republican leadership as well, BALA’s We Are America Tour events will occur in multiple cities on September 7. While being one of the newest organizations within the anti-immigrant movement, BALA’s membership, particularly Leah Durant and Frank Morris, boasts long-standing ties to other Tanton Network organizations:
- Durant previously served as an attorney at the Immigration Reform Law Institute – the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)
- Durant left IRLI to become the executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). In April, she co- founded the African American American Leadership Council, which only a few months later would become BALA. PFIR and BALA both list the same Washington DC address as their office location.
- Morris serves on the board of both FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and is also PFIR’s Vice President. Despite being labeled a “liberal voice” in a recent CIS interview series and being the vice president of the supposedly progressive organization PFIR, Morris is peculiarly one of many “National Conservative Leaders” that signed a May letter opposing S. 744.
Given these connections, it should come as no surprise that on the same day FAIR announced a seven-figure advertising campaign directed at Rep. Paul Ryan, BALA sent a letter to the Wisconsin Republican urging him to withdraw his support for reform legislation.
The continuity in messaging and similarity in targets is indicative of a continued collaboration among these supposedly independent organizations within the anti-immigrant movement, collectively working to further an agenda fueled by bigotry. We must ensure our elected officials do not legitimize these nativist intentions – no matter how loud anti-immigrant activists and the organizations behind them are in opposition to immigration reform.