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How the Anti-Immigrant Movement Failed in 2014

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It’s time for our end-of-the-year roundup in anti-immigrant extremism, when we look back at 2014 and review the hateful comments, failed rallies, and false claims that made up the opposition to immigration reform.  This year there were many fails: there were at least nine anti-immigrant rallies that flopped or fizzled out into “press conferences,” some of the GOP’s most anti-immigrant candidates fell short in the midterm elections, and President Obama’s executive action spurred some of the worst anti-immigrant commentary.  Read below for the highlights:

  • Tanton network continued to make ridiculous comments. Stephen Steinlight of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies wanted to take a baseball bat to religious leaders who support immigration reform: “would be a whole lot fewer of them,” he said.  He also said in July that execution would be “too good” for Obama while his colleague Mark Krikorian claimed that “no family is ever split by immigration law.”  Keep in mind that Congressional Republicans remain so enamored of CIS and its sibling group, FAIR, that they invited four representatives from the two groups to testify at the most recent House and Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.
  • Anti-immigrant hardliners failed at elections.  Yes, David Brat kicked Eric Cantor out of office.  But the senatorial candidate who arguably ran the most nativist campaign, Scott Brown, lost his race.  Every Republican who voted for the Senate immigration bill who was up for reelection this year (Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham) won handily.  Meanwhile, some 80% of the candidates who signed FAIR’s ultra-restrictionist anti-immigrant campaign pledge lost.
  • Immigrant children draw hatred from the anti-immigrant crowd.  The main topic in immigration reform news this summer were the migrant children at the border, who came seeking asylum in the US and other countries in response to a frightening spike of violence back home.  The anti-immigrant crowd responded to them with hatred: in Murrieta, CA, nativists screamed and jeered in ways the city manager acknowledged were a “black eye” for the city.  The Ku Klux Klan suggested a “shoot to kill” law for the children fleeing violence.  Jim Gilchrist of the Minutemen suggested it was OK to turn the children away because “we’re all going to die someday.”  Sarah Palin, bizarrely, compared the arrival of the children to spousal abuse: “Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president. His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’”
  • Anti-immigrant rally after anti-immigrant rally flopped.  It’s almost not worth mentioning any longer, but the anti-immigrant crowd is really bad at mobilizing mass support.  This year, Steve King held at least two rallies where nobody came.  One of them involved Michele Bachmann pleading with supporters to come out to a “high noon” rally on Capitol Hill; the event was later downgraded into a press conference for lack of support.  Multiple anti-immigrant rallies during the summer were actually drowned out by pro-reform supporters.  Anti-immigrant efforts in July and August turned out only handfuls in a few cities.  An extremist protest in December brought out two dozen people demanding to “evict the negro from the White House” and “hang the lying traitor piece of shit.”  The same day, twenty anti-immigrant sheriffs made it to Capitol Hill to hold a closed-door press conference with Sens. Jeff Sessions and David Vitter — just a tenth of the 200 sheriffs the event initially boasted.  In comparison, check out the size of the immigrant and advocate watch parties convened the night President Obama announced his executive action.
  • Republicans fear-mongered about…everything.  Scabies?  Ebola?  Enterovirus?  ISIS?  Terrorists?  If there was something to be even mildly concerned about, then Republicans were trying to connect to immigrants or the children at the border, despite the complete lack of evidence.  Scott Brown even managed to twist ebola, ISIS, and border security together in a single soundbite that Greg Sargent dubbed, “The Fox News Trifecta.”  Blaming immigrants for disease is not historically new, but it remains disturbing to see members of Congress whip up so much hysteria over immigrant children.
  • Republicans and right-wingers absolutely lose it over executive action.  This year saw a history-making change in immigration policy when President Obama announced a series of executive actions that will protect some 5 million DREAMers and parents from deportation.  Predictably, Republican members of Congress and the right-wingers who support them lost it over this announcement, calling the development nothing less than a “constitutional crisis” (Jeff Sessions) that has “triggered the death of the Republic” (Trent Franks).  Tom Coburn warned that “you could see violence,” Lamar Smith claimed that Obama “actually declaring war on the American people and our democracy,” Mo Brooks wanted to imprison the president, at least ten House Republicans called for impeachment, and Kris Kobach compared executive action to “ethnic cleansing.”  Ted Cruz, of course, tried to use executive action to push for yet another government shutdown, and ended up with an embarrassing point-of-order vote that ended up benefitting Democrats.
  • States set to sue over executive action…despite the hundreds of millions in additional tax revenue that recognized immigrants will bring.  The Center for American Progress even broke down these tax gains by state.  The lead plaintiff state, Texas, alone will see $338 million in additional tax revenue over five years.  Yet these states seem determined to pursue a lawsuit that legal experts say they could ultimately have trouble winning (it will be hard for these states to demonstrate standing).  It’s true that a federal judge in Pennsylvania last week issued the first ruling against executive action, calling it unconstitutional.  But his decision was so unnecessary and contrived that even conservatives are calling it “really bad judging” and wrong for the judge to “reach out and decide the action’s constitutionality”.  Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona is heading his own legal challenge to executive action, but it would be much wiser for him to focus on his own serious legal problems at home, considering that he is in imminent danger of being found in contempt of court.