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Nativism 2012: The Winners & Losers

Jill Garvey • Jan 02, 2013

A new year is upon us, but it’s worth a look back to see who got a leg up and who got beat down in 2012. We’re counting down the most bigoted people and organizations that made an impact last year, in order (sort of) of least to most important.

ProEnglish – Although the group has been around for some time, it had a banner year in 2012. The group does as its name suggests, aggressively promotes policies that favor English as the official language of the United States. While ProEnglish would like us to believe that its agenda is uncontroversial, this could not be further from the truth. Under new management and busy recruiting young white nationalists, ProEnglish is gearing up to expand its influence and should be watched closely.

Help Save Maryland –  Despite the best (and possibly illegal) efforts of the anti-immigrant movement, the Maryland DREAM Act passed by referendum on election night. Thousands of undocumented youth who attended high school in Maryland will be able to continue their education alongside their peers at the state’s colleges. Anti-immigrant group Help Save Maryland wound up in hot water for airing ads against in-state tuition in violation of campaign finance rules. Help Save Maryland is, of course, a state contact group for the Federation for American Immigration Reform and has long-standing relationships with the Tanton Network.

Frank GaffneyGaffney is something more than a controversial figure in the beltway, with serious detractors on both the Right and Left. The Southern Poverty Law Center classified Gaffney as one of “30 New Activists Heading Up the Radical Right,” and Hope Not Hate, an anti-bigotry research organization based in the UK, also classifies Gaffney as a highly influential character within the Islamophobia movement in the US. Branded a conspiracy theorist, Gaffney was even barred from speaking at CPAC 2012. But that hasn’t stopped Center for Immigration Studies from lending him its support, and helping him move is ideas into the mainstream.

Steve KingDaily Kos describes him as “prominent in both the Dumber and Meaner factions of the [Republican] party.” He may be dumb, but he sure has a lot of staying power. This summer, Rep. Steve King of Iowa’s 4th District circulated a fundraising letter for the anti-immigrant group ProEnglish. The letter was printed on his letterhead, and carried his picture and signature. To solicit funding on behalf of a group staffed by well-documented activists within the organized white nationalist movement would be career-suicide for many politicians. But not King, who seems to be made of political Teflon. Despite high hopes that King would be unseated by his opponent in November, he was re-elected and stands ready to block any real progress Republicans hope to make towards rational immigration reform.

 Progressives for Immigration Reform – The group finally tired of donning its “Leftist Environmentalist” costume. PFIR was founded in 2009 as a front for a larger constellation of groups known as the John Tanton Network and is tasked with cloaking that network’s anti-immigrant messaging in a greener light more palatable for environmentalists. After three years of trying to maintain its veneer of legitimacy, PFIR effectively gave up in 2012. Though the group’s affiliations with FAIR and other Tanton Network organizations, as well as white nationalist publication VDARE.com, are more apparent than ever, the group will continue pining for the affections of progressives in 2013.

Peter Brimelow/VDARE – In the aftermath of the Sikh temple massacre, white nationalist Peter Brimelow wrote an article on the website he founded, VDARE.com, that all but defended neo-Nazi skinhead Wade Michael Page. Brimelow suggested that Sikhs should not have been settling in Wisconsin in the first place and that the Sikh community is itself responsible for mass shootings. He also wonders why there was a rush to judge Page, despite well-documented evidence that he had long been involved with neo-Nazi groups. How does he get away with publishing such filth? In part because groups like Center for Immigration Studies and FAIR continue to promote VDARE.com and lend it legitimacy. We also learned that Brimelow scored himself a seat at the FAIR Advisory Board meeting, even though he isn’t listed as member. Brimelow regularly derides his more mainstream friends FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA, but that hasn’t stopped them from giving him a leg up.

Kris Kobach/Immigration Reform Law Institute – Over the past couple of years, Kansans have increasingly objected to the “extracurricular  activities” of their Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Opposition to Kobach has focused heavily on the obscene amount of time that he spent outside of the state campaigning for Mitt Romney, drafting and defending anti-immigrant measures in state and federal courts, launching myriad other lawsuits backed by the anti-immigrant movement, speaking before far-Right organizations, pushing the national voter fraud/Voter ID bill agenda, and so on. It was, perhaps, Kobach’s vocal role in setting the GOP Platform just before the RNC that most recently underscored the Secretary of State’s hard-line beliefs. Kobach was at the forefront of steering his party against Muslims and the in-vogue pantomime villain that is “creeping Sharia,” against the rights of all LGBT individuals, and against immigrants by convincing the convention to harden its platform stance on immigration laws. In the wake of the presidential election, though, some pundits are crediting Romney’s anti-immigrant messaging uttering as one of the central components to his defeat. His hardline immigration stance is fully traceable to Kobach and his cohorts at the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA. Some Kansas sources are even wondering aloud, “Did Kobach Connection Cost Romney the Election?”

Roy Beck/NumbersUSA – The leader of powerhouse anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA has been in a bit of a pickle lately. First, Rep. Louis Gutierrez took him to task on the House floor, calling his group “the most extreme element of American society on immigration.” Ouch.  Just days later, an MSNBC profile of Beck correctly re-substantiated his and NumbersUSA’s long history of associating with eugenicists, white nationalists, and the well-established anti-immigrant movement. Beck may be down, but he’s not out. Keep an eye out for him to try to make a power play in 2013. He is after all, white nationalist John Tanton’s “heir apparent.”

 John Tanton & the Tanton Network – Last October several nativist groups brought together white nationalist and anti-immigrant leaders for a conglomeration of events. It was no coincidence that the Federation of American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) national board of advisors meeting, the Social Contract Press’s Annual Writers’ Workshop, and Progressives for Immigration Reform’s (PFIR) Annual National Conference all occurred over a two-day span and shared many of the same attendees; after all, each is part of John Tanton’s network. Despite pulling off an impressive convergence of nativist forces, no doubt to do some serious strategizing, the Tanton Network wasn’t able to make a significant impact on the 2012 elections and lost key allies – most notably, Brian Bilbray. In spite of these setbacks, the Tanton Network still has seemingly unlimited funding, thanks to Tanton’s friendship with deceased heiress Cordelia Scaife May. She left a $400-million-plus war chest for her friends in the anti-immigrant movement via the Colcom Foundation.

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