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Tanton Network's BALA Rally A Mix of Questionable Messages and Messengers

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Today, immigration reform opponents are gathering in DC for the so-called “March for Jobs,” an event hosted the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA).  Featuring the likes of Ted Cruz, Jeff Sessions, Steve King, Mo Brooks, and Allen West–and promoted by NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies–the event promises to be a hotbed of all that is nativist and anti-immigrant.

There are at least a few things to note about the march, however.  One is that it’s a project of the Tanton Network, which was founded by John Tanton—who according to the Southern Poverty Law Center “has white nationalist beliefs and has written that to maintain American culture, a ‘European-American majority’ is required.”

Tanton is the same guy who is behind groups like CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA.  That’s right, BALA is a front group, formerly known by names like the African American Leadership Council, Choose Black America, the Coalition for the Future American Worker.  Its leadership consists of people who are board members of FAIR, and one Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who believes things like that blacks should be put back “on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working.”

Secondly, it’s a blatant attempt to sow division between African-Americans and Latinos, between immigrants and the native-born.  Conservatives have long used such us-vs.-them tactics, and we saw a rash of it in 2011, after Republicans took back the House and held multiple hearings trying to make the exact case the BALA rally will be arguing today–that immigrants take jobs away from Americans, especially African-Americans.

Not only is the claim blatantly false, but it’s being made by the worst possible spokespeople.  BALA exists, ostensibly, to protect the interests of African-Americans from immigrants such as those who would be helped by immigration reform.  But the Congressional headliners at today’s event–Sessions, King, Brooks, and former Rep. Allen West–all received straight up F’s from the NAACP in their latest legislative report card for civil rights. (Ted Cruz, a freshman Senator, has not yet been ranked.)

Jeff Sessions, in particular,  has an infamously ugly history when it comes to race relations, once joking that he “used to think [the KKK] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers.”  He’s supposedly called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race” and said that the Voting Rights Act was a “piece of intrusive legislation.”  Sessions, a former US Attorney, was once considered for a US District Court judgeship—but lost out when his nomination was vehemently opposed by the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and other groups.  This is the kind of guy that BALA wants to be their champion?

What’s more, it’s odd for BALA itself to be representing the interests of African-Americans, considering the group’s affiliations with those who have made it clear that they don’t care about enfranchising minorities.   Mark Krikorian tweeted about today’s rally, but he’s one of the proponents of a theory which believes that the GOP only needs white votes to thrive demographically, and so should focus only on policy positions that cater to its base.  (Krikorian is also known for opining things like how the reason “Haiti’s so screwed up” is “because it wasn’t colonized long enough.”)

His colleague at the Center for Immigration Studies, Steve Camarota, is also a big believer in the white-votes-only theory, and recently said that one of the Republicans’ “biggest problems in the last presidential election was that so many less-educated whites sat home.”  That doesn’t seem like a school of thought much concerned with the interests of minority voters.

It’s like what Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference, recently told the Daily Beast: “We’ve seen this before,” he said of BALA’s tactics and the motivations of the groups behind it.  Their aim is to divide and conquer, to sow division and turn friends against each other.  “This is the same page pulled from an over-20-year-old playbook.”