Yesterday, People For the American Way released our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus entitled “(P)reviewing the Right-Wing Playbook on Immigration Reform” which lays out the attacks the Right used to fight efforts at immigration reform in the past and will undoubtedly deploy again the issue is taken up by Congress in the near future:
The public debate over comprehensive immigration reform in 2006 and 2007 was marked by appalling anti-immigrant rhetoric and was accompanied by a rise in anti-Latino hate crimes tracked by the FBI. In a report last year, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights called “the legitimization and mainstreaming of virulently anti-immigrant rhetoric” one of the “most disturbing developments of the past few years.” Among the pundits promoting “fear and loathing” on cable television was Glenn Beck, who said “our country is on fire, and the fuel is illegal immigration.” Since then, the swine flu scare and the deep economic recession in the United States have given right-wing opponents of comprehensive immigration reform new fuel for inflaming anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment. In September 2008, for instance, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin even blamed “illegal immigrants” for the mortgage crisis.
The 2006-2007 push for comprehensive immigration reform was supported by the Bush administration, much of America’s business and labor establishments, and congressional leaders from both parties. But in spite of that broad support, the passage of reform was derailed by right-wing pundits who inflamed anti-immigrant sentiment, some members of Congress who gleefully participated in the fearmongering, and others who were simply afraid to resist it.
In October 2008, the Anti-Defamation League criticized anti-immigrant groups for utilizing the strategies of hate groups and “resorting to hateful and dehumanizing stereotypes and outright bigotry to demonize immigrants.” To the categories identified by the ADL we can now add demagoguery over the swine flu virus and exploitation of the nation’s economic woes.
Here is a review of the rhetorical strategies used to inflame anti-immigrant sentiment and build political opposition to comprehensive immigration reform.
The report lays out nine specifc attacks the Right has used in the past to kill immigration reform legislation:
1: Appeal to Racial Fear and The ‘Brown’ Threat to ‘White’ America – “What is happening to us? An immigrant invasion of the United States from the Third World, as America’s white majority is no longer even reproducing itself.” – Pat Buchanan
2: Appeal to Racial Resentment by Portraying Immigrant Rights Advocates as Racists — “[NCLR is] the Ku Klux Klan of the Hispanic people” – Michael Savage
3: Portray Immigrants and Their Supporters as Invaders, Conquerors, Enemies of the U.S. – “The homegrown multiculti-mau-mau-ers know exactly what they believe, and they know exactly what they are doing. They aim to mainstream the ‘Stolen Land’ mantra and pervert history. They aim to obliterate America’s borders by sheer demographic and political force.” – Michelle Malkin
4: Portray Immigrants as Criminals and Terrorists – “Illegal immigration” is a “slow-motion Holocaust,” and a “slow-motion terrorist attack on the United States.” – Congressman Steve King
5: Portray Immigrants as Carriers of Disease and Weapons of Bio-Terrorism – “The next time you eat in a restaurant or sleep in a hotel or motel….just remember to bring your own food, dishes, untensils [sic], glasses, towels, and maybe your own water. The person who cooked your meal or made your bed may very well be the one who picked your fruit and vegetables, yesterday….and we’ve heard the stories about what they do in the fields….haven’t we?” – Mothers Against Illegal Aliens
6: Stop Reform by Shouting ‘Amnesty’ – “‘Comprehensive’ is the code word for amnesty.” – Pat Buchanan
7: Denigrate Reform Efforts as Vote-Buying — “The Democrats know it’s to their advantage to bring in Third World hordes who will one day become Democratic voters.” – Rick Scarborough
8: Portray Anti-Immigrant Stance as ‘Pro-Worker’ (While Voting Against Worker Interests) — “If they were not in the country, we wouldn’t have to worry about emergency room or health insurance costs at all. And Americans would have these jobs.” – Congressman Virgil Goode
9: Push Divisive Black-Brown Wedge – “[Illegal immigration is] the greatest threat to black people since slavery.” – Ted Hayes
For those who are committed to passing much-needed immigration reform, it is vital to know the various strategies used by anti-immigrant, right-wing activists in the past … and that is exactly what our latest report seeks to chronicle and analyze.