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Are Democrats Really Scared of Marginalized Anti-Immigrant, Hate Groups?

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News reports suggest that the President may delay big executive action on immigration until after the November elections, due to complaints from scared Democrats in red states.

If this happens, it will be because Democrats have simply forgotten all the lessons we thought they learned in the 2008, 2010, and 2012 elections.  Leaning in to the immigration issue, offering solutions, and taking action is a much stronger position than hiding in the corner and maintaining the status quo.

Who are these politicians afraid of, anyway?  The millions of Latino, Asian, and naturalized citizens who could be mobilized to vote in November, or the loud but not large group of anti-immigrant issue voters who hate the President to begin with?

If it’s a battle of movements, there’s no question which one is large and ascending and which one is shrinking and dying.  Take a look at our annual August recess recap.

Despite efforts from the usual anti-immigrant groups (FAIR, NumbersUSA, the Center for Immigration Studies, ALIPAC, and even the Ku Klux Klan), the anti-immigrant presence at rallies, town halls, and other events this summer have just been lackluster.  At the same time, DREAMers, other immigrants, and allies are showing up in more and more places and putting 2014 and 2016 candidates who oppose them in tough spots.  Read below for more.

August Anti-Immigrant Rallies Flop

Like they did last year, anti-immigrant rallies this summer have almost uniformly been failures.  This past weekend, nativist groups ALIPAC and Overpasses for America held another set of sparsely attended rallies, featuring mere handfuls of protesters distracting motorists from highway overpasses.  The groups organized similar events in late July and early August with the same lack of success.  In multiple instances this summer, news coverage actually focused on the pro-immigrant protesters who turned out to overwhelm the extremists.  For example, a KKK rally made headlines in mid-August when counter-protesters who supported immigration reform turned out at a Klan event and drowned out the Klansmen by a ratio of 5-1.  (View the Center for Community Change’s excellent Buzzfeed piece for more on how community groups are schooling anti-immigrant extremists.)

Town Hall Events Are Quiet

Similarly, town halls — traditionally an outlet for Tea Partiers to put the fear of God into members of Congress — were unexciting. At the beginning of August, as they have done in previous years, NumbersUSA released a map of known town halls across America and encouraged their members “to use our new August Recess Town Hall Map to find local events at which to hold elected officials accountable.”  They continued:

The long list [to hold people accountable for] includes President Obama’s plans to issue more executive amnesties, the federal government relocating illegal aliens to towns across the country and a tragically long reputation of the government refusing to enforce our immigration laws- the cause of the border crisis we are experiencing now.

But August recess is now over, with no fireworks from the anti-immigrant movement.  In contrast, all the viral immigration news of the summer have come from the DREAMers (more about that below).

No Repeat of Murrieta Protests

After the now-infamous Murrieta anti-immigrant protests, both NumbersUSA and FAIR released maps of other places where Central American children were being bussed and flown into communities, apparently in the hopes of inspiring more Murrietas.  But with one or two exceptions, the American attitude toward the children fleeing violence have largely swung away from Murrieta — possibly because the Tea Party protests there have given the town an enduring black eye.  (Murrieta mayor Alan Long, after initially egging on the protests, ultimately had to work damage control on the town’s image, saying, “We’ve heard some of those passionate people seeing the clips on the news and coming to a conclusion that Murrieta’s not compassionate.  It’s a shame that two minutes of video time on the news channel really stereotypes our city.”)  Furthermore, polls show that a majority of Americans support giving the Central American children due process and a fair hearing, rather than deporting them to dangeras soon as possible.

Desperate opponents of immigration reform are currently obsessed with the mayor of small town in Massachusetts who is telling them what they want to hear by claiming that immigrant children are actually adults with “more wrinkles than I have.”  But a post by Dana Milbank at the Washington Post unraveled the mayor’s entire story when it revealed that she has not seen any such adult/children herself.

Anti-Immigrant Candidates See Election Fails

One of the places where organizing matters most is at the ballot box, but when it comes to winning votes this year, Tea Partiers and opponents of immigration reform have largely failed.  Eric Cantor famously lost to his Tea Party challenger, but Lamar Alexander (TN), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Renee Ellmers (NC) all prevailed over challengers who ran hard against immigration reform.  Most recently, Alaska’s Joe Miller lost his primary bid to take on Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), despite sending out what Think Progress called “the most racist campaign mailer of 2014,” in which Miller implied that all undocumented immigrants are criminals who are out to take away your guns.

Furthermore, at the beginning of the summer we wrote about an anti-immigrant pledge being promoted by FAIR and Laura Ingraham, which is so opposed to immigrants that it’s even against legal immigration.  A number of Tea Party candidates have signed the pledge, while many established Republicans have not.  As both Think Progress and Imagine 2050 have noted, the pledge signers aren’t doing too well.  (Lamar Alexander’s challenger Joe Carr, Renee Ellmers’ challenger Frank Roche, and Joe Miller were all pledges.)  As of August 12, of the 94 candidates who are running for federal office (in 75 races) and have signed FAIR’s pledge:

  • 14 candidates have won their respective primaries and/or runoffs. This includes five incumbents and three others who ran unopposed.
  • 68 candidates have lost or dropped out of primary races.

Pro-Migrant Advocates Have Killer Summer

In contrast to the complete failures of the anti-immigrant movement this August recess, DREAMers have been enjoying a blockbuster summer chasing down members of Congress and demanding that they answer for their opposition to DACA.  “The Dreamers have destroyed the Republican immigration strategy,” Jonathan Chait wrote in a recent New York Magazine piece, continuing:

The trouble for Republicans is that the political theater created by the Dreamers is not going to stop. They can try their best to control officially sanctioned media debates, but the Dreamers are staging debates without permission, endlessly highlighting the cruelty of the Republican stance. It is a strategy for which the Republicans so far have no answer.

Republicans should be afraid.  An encounter between Erika Andiola, Cesar Vargas, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) went viral many times over when Erika dared King to rip up her DACA card.  Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), at the same event, became the target of internet condemnation when he ran away rather than engaging.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) continued his fall from grace when he belittled DREAMers who tried to speak to him and allowed them to walk out to jeers.  (This clip of a Tea Partier at Rubio’s event practically lunging at a DREAMer was replayed over and over again on Spanish-language news.)  Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA) were both accosted.  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was confronted at not one, not two, but three different book signings, each time dismissing the DREAMers by telling them to go “read my book” and then either retreating behind locked doors or having the DREAMers removed by security.

Finally, pro-immigration reform activists also held the best rallies of the summer, each of which called upon President Obama to take executive action and drew thousands of people.  Just before August recess began, NDLON and others marched from the National Mall to Freedom Plaza to the White House, with a stop in front of the Border Patrol offices.  Last week, more than a thousand advocates led by Casa de Maryland gathered in front of the White House as more than 140 activists were arrested in an act of civil disobedience for immigration reform.

Timing of Executive Action in Flux

As our opposition’s performance this August makes clear, they continue to have a bark that’s far worse than their bite.  It just remains to be seen how many August recesses—and how many national elections—Latino, Asian, and immigrant voters need to show up and win before weak-kneed politicians learn which side they need to fear.