5 Things to Watch for in Immigration Debate

On May Day 2013 thousands of people turned out onto the streets in hundreds of cities to march for comprehensive immigration reform. With the process partially underway, IREHR takes a look at five different things human rights supporters should be keeping an eye on as the debate moves forward.

1. Tea Partiers Lead the Counter-Mobilization

In contrast to the seeming “consensus” view that immigration reform is a fait accompli, anti-immigrant forces still think they can kill the bill. Unlike the 2005-2007 battles over comprehensive immigration reform, however, there isn’t a unified opposition lead by a close-knit network of anti-immigrant groups. This time, the situation is much more fluid and complicated.

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“Take these Tribes Down” The Anti-Indian Movement Comes to Washington State

This IREHR Special Report takes you inside the April 6 meeting hosted in Bellingham, Washington by the anti-Indian groups Citizens Equal Rights Alliance and Citizens Equal Rights Foundation. The report sheds light on these groups’ anti-Indian ideas and goals, their legal strategy and their plans to re-invigorate anti-Indian activism in Washington State and around the country.

“Take these tribes down”
The Anti-Indian Movement Comes to Washington State

By Chuck Tanner

April 6, 2013. As blue sky peeked through the clouds of an overcast Northwest morning, a group of mostly indigenous people gathered near the Lakeway Inn Best Western in Bellingham, Washington. Drumming and singing pulsed as those present held signs reading, “Honor the Treaties” and “We are All the People.” Event organizers, Idle No More Bellingham, had called community members together to protest two organizations “who are holding a conference to discuss opposition to the existence of tribes as separate and sovereign entities.”[1]

Inside a Lakeway Inn conference room, about fifty people were gathered to hear a lineup of speakers assail the very ideas of tribal sovereignty and treaty rights – of tribal nationhood.  The anti-Indian movement had come to town.  The concerns of Idle No More Bellingham were entirely justified.

The Bellingham conference was sponsored by the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) and Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF), one of a series of events being hosted around the country by these closely-linked national anti-Indian groups. CERA/CERF held previous meetings in New York and Massachusetts; others are slated for late April in the Midwest and June in Northern California.  CERA/CERF organized these forums after canceling their regular annual Washington D.C. conference.

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Tea Party Joins Gun Lobby to Kill Gun Background Checks

Defeating immigration reform next on the Tea Party agenda.

On April 17, the Senate failed to overcome the 60-vote threshold necessary to end a filibuster on bipartisan legislation to expand gun background checks to gun shows and internet sales. The bill garnered a 54-vote majority versus 46 opposed, but fell short of the 60 needed to overcome the minority’s filibuster.

The legislation, written by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), was the centerpiece of gun safety efforts in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut murders. Failed amendments to the bill including an effort to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and several GOP-sponsored efforts that weaken existing gun laws.

It took a concerted effort by the gun lobby and their Tea Party allies to block universal background check legislation, which currently has the support of roughly 90% of the American public according to recent opinion polls.

Efforts by gun lobby groups including the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms were fierce. Their efforts were supplemented by national and local Tea Party groups who rallied outside the local offices of several Senators and flooded Senate phone lines with calls and faxes.

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What to Expect from the Tea Parties in 2013 - And How to Stop it

The congressional vote at the turn of the New Year should tell us something about what to expect in 2013. Although a boiled down half-measure aimed at avoiding the fiscal cliff passed, a strong "no" vote from the far right bucked Speaker Boehner's leadership. The fact that a new session in January will bring in new faces, will not likely change the shape of this obstructive bloc. Remember, Tea Party-endorsed candidates won nearly 80% of their House races last house November, a higher rate than in 2010. They will likely oppose every moderate or slightly progressive proposal over the year to come.

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The Tea Parties Are Still Strong: Prepare for the Battles Ahead

In Michigan, so-called right to work legislation has been signed. As everyone knows, such legislation has nothing to do with finding and keeping a job, and everything to do with driving down the political power and membership density of unions. Just four short years ago, this measure would have been considered inconceivable in Michigan. Earlier this year, many union officials scoffed at its prospect. Now it has become law.

What has so sharply changed the balance of forces? Simply put: the Tea Party movement has radicalized a large swath of white people and made them immune to any calls for the common good.

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Tea Party Endorsed Candidates and Election 2012

In the Senate races, Tea Party-endorsed candidates fared even worse in 2012 than they did in 2010. This year, national Tea Party groups and their PACs endorsed thirteen candidates. Eleven lost. Only Jeff Flake in Arizona and Ted Cruz in Texas won, giving them a 15% winning percentage in 2012. By contrast, in 2010 10 of 16 Tea Party endorsed candidates won – a 62.5% winning percentage.

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Steve Stockman, Again

Just behind Florida's slate of eleven candidates, the state of Texas had nine Tea Party endorsed candidates. All nine were elected, in some cases by wide and unassailable margins. Louie Gohmert (R. TX-01) won with over 71% of the vote. Randy Neugebauer (R. TX-19) had no Democratic opponent and received 85%. Ted Poe (R. TX-12) pulled almost 65%, and so on. Joining, or more properly, rejoining this grouping in congress will be Steve Stockman. Stockman defeated two opponents with more money in the Republican primaries for Texas' 36th CD, and then won the November contest with 71.8% of the vote. He was endorsed by former Texas Congressman Dick Armey's FreedomWorks Tea Party faction along the way.

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Taking On the Tea Party: It's Our Time Now

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On July 28, 2012, IREHR's Devin Burghart gave a keynote speech at the Western States Center's annual training and skills conference, AMP, an event that drew over 400 activists and organizers from states across the west. Devin used the occasion to remind the attendees of lessons past and to talk about the tasks everyone faces today. This speech is a most powerful indictment of the Tea Party movement, and a call for people of good will—no matter what their principal issue of concern—to understand that the Tea Party movement must be actively opposed by us all.

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Supreme Court’s Arizona SB 1070 Ruling Flares Tea Party Nativism

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.

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About IREHR

The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) is a national organization with an international outlook examining racist, anti-Semitic, white nationalist, and far-right social movements, analyzing their intersection with civil society and social policy, educating the public, and assisting in the protection and extension of human rights through organization and informed mobilization.

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