American Conservative Union (ACU) chairman Al Cardenas once said “CPAC is like an ‘All Star’ game for conservatives.” Watching it unfold, however, is less like a ball game and more like surveying the line-up at a Moscow May Day parade during the times of the Soviet Union, if you can push the political ideology out of the picture for a moment. Or like monitoring a north Georgia Klan Labor Day Klan rally in the 1980s. You see who is in and who is out. In that regard, seeing the Tea Party emerge at CPAC 2013 is a little like watching the first time white power skinheads showed up at the Gainesville, Georgia Kluxer event in 1989.
Deer hunters look askance at anyone who shows up in the woods with an AR-15 rifle and a 30-shot banana clip. Turkey hunters and duck hunters do not use assault weapons to track their prey. Sensible people who keep a weapon for home protection usually have a shotgun. The M-16 knockoffs that float around the gunners' universe have only one real function: hunting humans. And the re-emerging debate in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre is not about guns, it is about politics and the organizations who dress themselves in the Second Amendment in order to better sell arch-conservative and racist, bigoted notions of American life.
Kansas passed an instate tuition policy that provided higher educational opportunities for immigrant students in 2004. Many people outside the state were puzzled, wondering how Kansas could join the ranks of New York and California in taking such a progressive stance. In subsequent years, Democrat and Republican lawmakers turned back repeated attempts to repeal this signature legislation. By joining forces, alliances formed between lawmakers from both parties. They took ownership of the policy that facilitated the education of young immigrants, understanding that it was in the best interests of the state.
When Kris Kobach, an anti-immigrant attorney with a long history of working for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, was elected Secretary of State in 2010, many believed that the legislative coalition that had passed and protected the pro-education measure was doomed. Indeed, Kobach had once sued the state, unsuccessfully, in opposition to this legislation. Kobach's plans to bring an Arizona-style anti-immigrant hardline to the state seemed inevitable. Instead, Kobach was rebuffed two legislative sessions in a row. He failed to have passed even limited pilots programs of e-verify, a measure that supposedly 'cracks down' on unauthorized employment.
The legislative log jam in Congress has been brutal. Since the administration of President George W. Bush, the anti-immigrant establishment has stymied every attempt to enact comprehensive immigration reform. During the same period, nativists have conducted a drive in the states to re-write legislation and make Latino immigrant’s life exceedingly difficult. In the words of the state legislation’s principal author, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, its goal was “attrition through enforcement.” Translated it meant that if you made life miserable for immigrants they would “self-deport.” The archetype of this state legislation was to be Arizona’s SB 1070, written to avoid the constitutional pitfalls that had sunk California’s Proposition 187 and Hazelton, Pennsylvania’s local ordinance before it.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, known nationally for his anti-immigrant activism, shared the stage with long-time white nationalist leader, Bob Vandervoort Saturday at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. The other panelists joining Vandervoort and Kobach include Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), and Alex Nowrasteh of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The moderator is Niger Innis, national spokesperson for the Congress of Racial Equality.
Despite being informed of Vandervoort's background in advance, none of the panelists challenged Vandervoort on his white nationalism. All of them shook his hand.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, known nationally for his anti-immigrant activism, is scheduled to share the stage with a long-time white nationalist leader Saturday at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Kobach is on a panel entitled "High Fences, Wide Gates: States vs. the Feds, the Rule of Law & American Identity" alongside Robert "Bob" Vandervoort. The organizational affiliation listed for Vandevoort at CPAC is executive director of ProEnglish. What Vandervoort left out of his bio is that during his time in Illinois he was also the organizer of the white nationalist group Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance.
Excerpts from presentation by Leonard Zeskind to the "Annual Civil Rights Town Hall Meeting" held by the Kansas City, Missouri branch of the NAACP on January 28, 2012.
In this special report the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) delineates the intersection of two trends. One is a measureable drop in the number of local and national anti-immigrant organizations that were established prior to the presidency of Barack Obama. Along the same lines, those organizations which remained experienced a noticeable decrease in the size of their membership and financial support.
This has led to a relative decline in what IREHR describes as the Nativist Establishment. It should be noted that IREHR is not arguing that these organizations have disappeared altogether. Neither does IREHR contend that such organizations have ceased to be a danger to human rights. Rather, the data suggests that their size and power have fallen relative to the strength they had achieved at their height during the period 2007-2008.
The second trend is a rise in anti-immigrant activism by the Tea Parties. As IREHR reported in its 2010 special report, Tea Party Nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiment and activism have been part of the Tea Party mix from the beginning. Indeed, we noted then that one of the six national factions, 1776 Tea Party, had imported its staff leadership directly from the Minutemen. In Beyond FAIR, however, we note both an increase in anti-immigrant activism by national and local Tea Party groups, as well as a measurable number of anti-immigrant leaders who have joined the Tea Parties and consequently accelerated the rate of anti-immigrant activism by those Tea Parties.
To a noticeable degree, the transfer of organizational allegiances to the Tea Parties noted in trend two is caused by the drop in strength by established anti-immigrant organizations described in trend one.
This re-articulation of the Nativist Establishment into the Tea Parties changes both the shape and strength of the anti-immigrant impulse in American life. Mixed into the activities of multi-issue organizations (the Tea Parties), it will be harder to delineate and counter by immigrant rights advocates. Further, the Tea Party movement by itself is larger and more significant than the Nativist Establishment ever was, even at its height. As a result, anti-immigrant activism has a bigger immediate constituency and is likely to be stronger.