Do nothing. Obstruct everything.
That seems to be the plan of national and state-level anti-immigrant groups who, earlier this week, began driving calls demanding that Congress block executive action on immigration and vote no on the administration’s border bill.
The anti-immigrant movement is actively trying to prevent any political resolution to address panic over the arrival of Central American refugees. Instead, they are exploiting the humanitarian crisis to further inflame right-wing populist and xenophobic sentiment. In so doing, they are attempting to block not just legislative action but also administrative relief that could slow deportations and protect millions of undocumented immigrants.
NumbersUSA, a beltway anti-immigrant group that pushes one-click activism, first made the call to its membership on Monday. Their email was echoed by national right-wing groups like the Tea Party Patriots and the Eagle Forum, in addition to state groups like Californians for Population Stabilization, NC Listen, the Tennessee Freedom Coalition and the Dustin Inman Society of Georgia. All echoed Sessions initial demand:
“Congress must foreclose any possibility of these unlawful executive actions before congressional funding is granted,” said Sessions in a July 25 statement. “This is an essential precondition.”
In an email sent Monday, NumbersUSA founder and president Roy Beck explained the importance of leveraging the border bill to block administrative relief:
“We have to get their [members of Congress] attention right now to remind them that whatever they do on the Border Surge will have a direct effect on whether Pres. Obama issues a new amnesty for millions of illegal aliens (as Administration sources keep promising) during August.”
This approach may seem odd at first. After all, the president’s proposal would expedite deportations and remove legal protections for children established in 2008 by a bipartisan law. It would seem that such a bill would satisfy these nativist groups.
But the anti-immigrant movement is not really looking for legislative action to address the humanitarian crisis at the border – despite using it to energize their membership. Instead they are rallying their base using talking points designed play well with far-right groups and inflame anti-Obama sentiment.
On Tuesday, William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC asked supporters to tell members of Congress to “Stop the Illegals!” and not to “pass any border funding bill!” And, as noted by Right Wing Watch, Gheen recently told World Net Daily that executive action would be equivalent to martial law:
“Obama doesn’t have the constitutional authority to declare any such amnesty for any group of people, and any declaration is a declaration of dictatorship and a form of martial law.”
Gheen and Americans for Legal Immigration PAC have been a link between beltway nativist organizations and more extreme groups. Gheen is, himself, quite extreme and prone to outrageous conspiracy theories. In recent protests against young Central American refugees, Gheen partnered with Overpasses for America, a group focused on impeaching Obama; and the Oath Keepers, a right-wing group that advocates overthrowing the government.
And while such bigoted groups may yell the loudest – they certainly do not speak for all of us. As they pull the national conversation in the direction of racist hysteria, we must speak out. We cannot afford to remain silent.
Lauren Taylor is a field organizer at the Center for New Community.
Image Source: London School of Economics and Political Science (CC)