Nativism Watch

SC activist files anti-refugee lawsuit, gains support from nativist think tank

Imagine2050 Staff • Feb 22, 2016

Lauren Martel, a lawyer and South Carolina resident, has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt and defund refugee resettlement in her home state, according to The Greenville News.

Martel’s legal challenge is being supported by a representative of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). According to an exclusive report by far-right conspiracy hub World Net Daily, CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan, was contacted by Martel and subsequently “filed an affidavit in the South Carolina suit” supporting Martel’s allegations.

The South Carolina lawsuit comes at a time when nativist groups across the country are advocating for similar measures to defund resettlement across all levels of government. At the federal level, nativist groups including ACT! for America, NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) continue to express and mobilize support for anti-refugee legislation introduced last year by Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX).

Specifically, Martel’s lawsuit targets two agencies with government contracts to assist in resettling refugees. Both World Relief Spartanburg and Lutheran Services are listed as defendants in the case alongside South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the South Carolina Department of Social Services. In recent years, anti-refugee activists have sought to increase scrutiny of organizations that assist in resettling refugees and states with resettlement programs. Prominent anti-refugee activists like CIS fellow Don Barnett, and Ann Corcoran, of the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog, have worked with groups like ACT! for America to perpetuate the notion that resettlement organizations misuse public funds.

Given her previous far-right activism and current enthusiastic support for virulently nativist presidential campaigning, Martel appears to be an ideal candidate to wage a legal challenge indirectly on behalf of nativist groups.

Last year, Martel sent a cease and desist letter to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richards “demanding a halt to the [refugee resettlement] program in its entirety,” according to The Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Martel also organized a “refugee resettlement informational summit” in Spartanburg on September 20 featuring nativist speakers like South Carolina State Sen. Lee Bright and former CIS employee Michael Cutler.

Martel previously served as the co-chair of then-Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign in Beaufort County, South Carolina. She is also a longtime member of the Hilton Head Tea Party and helped organize and spoke at the annual South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention. Speakers at last month’s iteration of convention included CIS’ affidavit-signing Jessica Vaughan and Clare Lopez, of the anti-Muslim conspiracy group Center for Security Policy (CSP).

Now Martel is taking her support for nativist policies beyond the ballot box and into the courts. And while the groups normally associated with nativist advocacy are not leading the effort, they are clearly sympathetic to Martel’s cause.

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