With Reform Deadline Approaching, Nativist Groups Rekindle their “Criminal” Rhetoric

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • May 29, 2014

As the Democrats’ summer deadline for moving on immigration reform draws closer, the organized nativist movement in America is falling back on a long-held communications strategy: scapegoating and fear-stoking through the criminalizing of immigrants.

In the last couple weeks, right-wing media rallied around yet another wildly misleading “report” from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), or the “Fake-Fact Think Tank” as one journalist labeled CIS upon the release of its dubious findings. Last week, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) – a group that has shared leadership with CIS – published a two page paper by senior writing fellow Leon Kolankiewicz entitled, “The Population and Immigration Ponzi Scheme.”

In the paper, Kolankiewicz argues that a pro-immigration/pro-immigrant stance is rooted in “fantasies and delusions of grandeur” and “magical thinking” that allow advocates, and Americans in general, to “dupe ourselves” into behaving like “5-year-olds.”  He even pains to offer readers “a news flash: the Earth is not flat and infinite. It is a sphere, not a boundless plane.”

Basic earth science lessons aside, Kolankiewicz, himself a long-time anti-immigrant and population control activist, is rehashing a foundational belief of his movement: Population growth is an economic and social “a pyramid scheme” that is inherently unsustainable.

Kolankiewicz ignores the mountain of demographic evidence refuting that argument – like falling birth rates and stabilizing unemployment  – happy as he is to supplement his opinions with a graph copied from Wikipedia.

Like CIS, which has been propagating the Ponzi-myth since the 1990s, CAPS is loathe to allow hard data to stymie its issuing of anti-immigrant polemics.

Founded in 1986, the group exists to redirect environmental concerns regarding overpopulation (sprawl, pollution, environmental degradation, etc) solely towards immigrants. Receiving past funding from the Pioneer Fund (a foundation interested in furthering the study of racial eugenics), CAPS shares other funding sources such as the Colcom Foundation & the Weeden Foundation with many from the organized nativist movement. (John D. Weeden is a CAPS advisory board member.) The group also shares leadership through individuals active past-and-present with fellow nativist organizations like the aforementioned CIS, Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR, also a former Pioneer Fund grantee), NumbersUSA, & others.

Like those groups, CAPS is deeply invested in painting immigrants as inherently criminal, as Kolankiewicz’s paper underscores.

In a March 2013 interview with the advocacy group Cuéntame, CAPS board member Marilyn DeYoung revealed just how deeply that lie penetrates that group, proclaiming on video:

“A baby can join a gang and then commit a crime, a baby can drop out of school and become a criminal, a baby grows up … The DREAM Act is dangerous, children of illegal aliens who were brought here under this stupid birthright citizenship visa.  They’re not getting into the depth of whether they’re communist or whether they’re drug smugglers or had felonies or had been in prison or anything. They know how to game our benefits — they’re on food stamps, they go to the hospital, get free education, free medical care.”

Without exaggeration, DeYoung was voicing the hyperbole that motivates many that comprise the leadership of the organized nativist movement.

DeYoung’s views more unabashedly define both a primary goal of that movement – to criminalize the lives of many immigrants – and one krux of the worldview of those engaged with it – that so many immigrants are violent criminals who care not for the welfare of the law-abiding. And therein in lies that movement’s investment in this “Ponzi scheme” rhetoric: anyone employing it can paint our entire immigration system – not just immigrants – as a criminal enterprise seeking to prey on the well-meaning but ill-informed.

Indeed, such lies are meant to obstruct integrative and humane immigration reform, and to funnel Congress towards an “enforcement-first” stance on reform that could militarize our borders and will, undoubtedly, continue to tear apart families over minor traffic violations.


Aaron P. Flanagan is the Director of Research at the Center for New Community.

Image source: Forbes and Antonio Villaraigosa

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