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This Week on the Right

Politics, Ideologies of Anti-Immigration Forces
By Tom Barry

(Excerpted from a new Americas Program Special Report, available in its entirety at:

Most immigration restrictionists are found within the political right, but by no means do all members of the right believe that the government should actively restrict immigration. In fact, some of the strongest proponents of immigration are associated with the Republican Party, including the libertarians—who believe that the market, and not the government, should regulate labor supply—and big business, which likes having an easy flow of cheap immigrant labor.

Within the anti-immigration camp, there are major differences. The paleoconservatives, for example, together with associated traditionalists and social conservatives, criticize the leading restrictionist policy institutes such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). They believe that these groups espouse essentially secular and liberal ideas about population control, environmentalism, and labor issues, rather than standing firmly behind the country’s core Judeo-Christian culture and values.

A belief in the superiority of U.S. culture and values is a common thread uniting the many restrictionists, although major differences exist in how this perspective is expressed. The most militant anti-immigrant activists are often associated with white supremacist groups. Others take pains to avoid racist rhetoric, insisting the issue is one of “control of our borders.”

A strong populist streak also runs through the restrictionist movement. Its critique of the “open borders” agenda of Corporate America puts it at odds with the leadership of the Republican Party and the corporate sponsors of both political parties. The pro-worker, anti-big business arguments of the restrictionists resonate with many Americans who feel hard-pressed to pay their bills and who worry about their economic security.

The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, sparked an increase in anti-immigration grassroots organizing, congressional bills, and media coverage, which substantially increased the constituency base of the restrictionists. Anti-immigrant forces quickly appropriated the administration’s language of the “war on terrorism,” couching restrictionist arguments in terms of the importance of gaining total control of U.S. borders, downsizing the resident immigrant population, and severely restricting new immigration.

The rising influence of these diverse forces rests in the widespread public conviction that U.S. immigration policy and U.S. borders are out of control. This concern with the cultural, economic, environmental, and security impact of the influx of immigrants does not necessarily arise from racist, xenophobic, or supremacist beliefs. It is often the result of people’s own experience with the effects of a large and expanding immigrant population in their communities, an experience that is often partly determined by the interpretative lenses used by governments and mass media to describe the phenomena.

Also see:

Immigration Debate: Whose Side Are You On?

Glossary of Right-Wing Forces in Foreign Policy

Featured Profiles

John Tanton
According to, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, "The organized anti-immigration ‘movement’ is almost entirely the handiwork of one man – Michigan activist, John. H. Tanton.”

Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO)
CEO believes that "with the United States admitting high numbers of immigrants, America’s ability to accept newcomers will increasingly depend upon finding a pro-assimilation middle-ground between nativists who say that today’s immigrants cannot assimilate and multiculturalists who say that they should not."

Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)
CIS describes itself as “independent” and “nonpartisan,” but its studies, reports, and media releases consistently support its restrictionist agenda and works closely on Capitol Hill with Republican Party immigration restrictionists.

Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC)
CCC describes itself as a nonprofit organization that works "for the rights and collective interests of true conservatives. Among its main concerns are affirmative action, non-white immigration, and official recognition of the Confederate flag.

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)
FAIR has two major goals: (1) “to end illegal immigration,” and (2) “to set legal immigration at the lowest feasible levels consistent with the demographic, economic, social, and environmental realities.”

Immigration Reform Caucus
The Immigration Reform Caucus of the House of Representatives seeks to make restrictionism the core principle of any new immigration reform legislation. According to its own mission statement, “The caucus…exists as an outlet for members and staff to discuss how current laws and regulation pose a threat to the security of America.”

NumbersUSA shares offices with ProEnglish and Evangelicals for Immigration Reform, and is directed by Roy Beck, author of The Case Against Immigration. In promoting its agenda it blames immigration for lost jobs, urban sprawl, and environmental degradation while inflating fears of unchecked immigrant fertility.

ProEnglish says that it "is a member-supported, national, nonprofit organization working to educate the public about the need to protect English as our common language and to make it the official language of the United States." ProEnglish specializes "in providing pro-bono legal assistance to public and private agencies facing litigation or regulatory actions over language."

ProjectUSA advocates: "ending illegal immigration;" "reducing legal immigration to traditional, sustainable levels;" and "a ten-year time-out while the country reassesses immigration in terms of the long-term consequences of the present policy."

Social Contract Press
Social Contract Press, founded in 1990 by John Tanton, is "an educational and publis

hing organization advocating open discussion of such related issues as population size and rate of growth, protection of the environment and precious resources, limits on immigration, as well as preservation and promotion of a shared American language and culture."

U.S. English
Among the objectives of the foundation are: "to help improve the teaching of English to immigrants," "to study language policy around the world," and "to raise public awareness through the media about the importance of our common language."

Letters From Our Readers

(Editors Note: We encourage feedback and comments, which can be sent for publication through our feedback page, at: Thank you.)

Re: The Immigration Debate: Whose Side Are You On?

Thank you for illuminating how the Right Wing/Nativist Movement has appropriated the rhetoric of the war on terrorism to advance its own narrow agenda: Restricting mainly Mexican immigration. – You help show how an attitudinal shift in the country has been made fostered by a general climate of fear and isolation in this country since 9/11.

I have also found valuable your effort to map and document the work of the right W wing to shape public opinion towards agreeing to a reversal of the New Deal social contract. This Architecture of Power, as you aptly describe it, is the foundation of the conservative ascendancy we are experiencing now. 9/11 and the muscular foreign policy implemented by the Bush administration have helped tilt the national debate rightward. When will liberals and liberal internationalists begin to fight back effectively?

– Joseph Rieras

Re: The Immigration Debate: Whose Side Are You On?

Why are you siding with Bush on the immigration issue?

This is an article I wrote before the election:

No, I really don’t think folks like Lamm have got it. Barbara Jordan was much closer to the mark. Gene McCarthy is at least showing some integrity.

No, I don’t hate immigrants. I believe that if/when the law is enforced, they deserve compensation from the folks that have brought them to the U.S.-even if it means complete liquidation of all assets of the wealthy. That doesn’t mean they deserve to stay in the U.S. illegally-pay them their money as they go home. Whatever deal is struck, shouldn’t be on the backs of poor people. However, I have nothing but contempt for the corporate interests that profit from open borders-and the fake leftists that defend them.

Folks like yourself and the Bush camp both have way too much of a voice in policy–and political elites, media elites and economic elites are all out of touch with most Americans on this issue. We need radical measures to decentralize political authority to contain this mess.


Re: John P. Walters

John Walters, director of national drug control policy, defended the government’s ban on the use of medical marijuana. "Science and research have not determined that smoking marijuana is safe or effective," he said.

For people who are chronically or terminally ill and use marijuana, I would guess that "safety" is not their biggest concern. Most are probably already close to death. If you’re close to dying and in chronic pain, do you want to be safe and miserable (and have the government enslave you to your misery), or do you want pain relief?

– J. R. Mathews

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