Has NumbersUSA lost its edge?
In the not-so-distant past the group was the star player among a network of organizations fiercely opposed to immigration. It was credited with handily derailing immigration reform in 2007, and became the public face of the anti-immigrant movement thanks to the controversies dogging FAIR and its white nationalist founder, John Tanton.
But sending thousands of faxes to Congress with the push of a button doesn’t scare up the same level of attention it did five years ago. And the road since hasn’t been too rosy for NumbersUSA. The group is continually mentioned in relation to FAIR and Tanton, and Beck’s efforts to rally fractured and confused Tea Partiers has been decidedly unsuccessful. That’s never been more evident than the last few months.
First, NumbersUSA helped form a front group called Black American Leadership Alliance that was supposed to carry the group’s “immigration is bad for workers” message to African Americans. That didn’t go too well. The Daily Beast ran a story about just how badly it went – “Black American Leadership Alliance D.C. Anti-Immigration Rally Wilts.”
Then NumbersUSA with Rep. Steve King launched a series of events called the Stop Amnesty Tour during the Congressional recess. This is a sad attempt to replicate the 2009 tactics employed by the Tea Party during its heyday. But there are two major problems: One is Steve King. Need I say more? Two, tea partiers aren’t showing up, at least not in any substantial way. Case in point, over a thousand people rallied today in support of immigration reform in Bakersfield. NumbersUSA managed to get only two dozen people to show up in opposition. Richmond, Virginia was even worse. On Monday, Steve King spoke to what Raw Story described as the “tiniest crowd of people.” Even the conservative blogosphere was poking fun. A Raw Story article reported that Daily Caller writer Matthew Boyle lamented on Twitter, “If grassroots wants to kill #Amnesty they have to show up. #teaparty they are not here in Richmond;” and later, “Not sure where the grassroots are. Not here.”
A recent article in The Atlantic gave Beck a generous heaping of credit when it said the group could potentially pull off another upset of immigration reform.
Despite Roy Beck’s carefully polished veneer and lack of transperancy, the article served to remind us of his unsavory involvement with the anti-immigrant movement and close personal relationship with John Tanton.
Beck likes to position himself as an affable underdog in the fight over immigration reform. He claims to represent the “interests of the ordinary folk,” but the article points out that there “aren’t any prominent groups opposed to immigration reform but separate from the Tanton network.”
Ironically, Tanton spent the early 1990s targeting The Atlantic because he felt its readership was susceptible to concerns about overpopulation and threats to the American middle-class, and wanted to use those fears to stoke a backlash against immigrants. Beck, at the time the Washington editor for Tanton’s The Social Contract, carried out his boss’s directive and authored a 1994 article for The Atlantic Monthly that takes Tanton’s eugenics-laced lingo and tries to make it palatable for liberal America.
Beck describes the town of Wasau, Wisconsin as a middle-class, homogenous “paradise” ruined by immigration. His depiction of residents as fearful that their way of life “was slipping away” and defending against an onslaught of poor, unassimilated refugees could have come straight from the racist novel The Camp of the Saints. He characterizes young Hmong girls as having high fertility rates and menstruating at an early age. He even posits that Asian gangs had forced native youths to “link up with outside white gangs.” Almost 20 years later, Beck is still pushing his immigrant invasion fear tactics. But is anybody listening?