Of Bombs and Wombs: Nativist Myths of Weaponized Fertility

(More Right-Wing Prophecies of White Supremacy’s Decline)

This post is the second in a series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter global demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one here.) In this post and those to follow, I discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, with a focus on the anti-immigration Right. 

In my last article, I discussed the Right’s fear-mongering narrative that contraceptive use and other exercises of reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are catapulting civilization into decline. Curiously, there is also a swath of powerful right-wing voices making what appears to be a diametrically opposed argument. They are organized around the perceived threat of population growth, and—like their pro-population growth counterparts—they are deeply invested in regulating exactly which populations are permitted to procreate. In truth, though, these seemingly rival factions are two sides to the proverbial coin, and that coin is eugenics.

Courtesy of peoplesworld, Creative Commons

Courtesy of peoplesworld

Population alarmism, or the notion that high rates of population growth are to blame for poverty, climate change, and a host of other nightmarish global problems, is a well-disguised framework for undermining poor people of color’s reproductive autonomy. Its insidiousness comes from the effective coding of rhetoric surrounding hyperfertility and handout-seeking burdens to taxpayers as references to women of color, particularly poor Black women and immigrant Latina women. The fiction that excessively high birthrates are the source of human suffering becomes a way to mask racism, misogyny, and elitism while still clearly identifying poor women of color as the enemy, the undesirable Other.

It is important to note that not all people who can become pregnant are women; many trans men and nonbinary people can also become pregnant, and they are materially affected by attacks on reproductive health. Of course, such attacks are gendered in their ideology, and in this sense they are attacks on women, which necessarily impact trans women. Therefore, when referring to the logic of limiting reproductive choice, I will use “women”; when referring to actual initiatives to limit reproductive choice, I will use “people who can become pregnant.”

U.S. eugenics are at least as old as Mendel’s laws of heredity, but the pretext of unsustainable population growth for right-wing vilification of women of color’s fertility can be traced back to the emergence of a “new Malthusianism” that gained traction under President Nixon. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich sounded the alarm with his book The Population Bomb (coauthored without attribution by his wife), which argued that the earth was approaching its carrying capacity, and rising population growth would be catastrophic for humans and the environment. Coupled with Cold War anxieties that growing populations would cause resource scarcity, which would give rise to Communism, the Ehrlichs’ arguments helped generate bipartisan support for the suppression and stabilization of population growth. The conflation of the “population problem” and the implicitly racialized “urban crisis” of the mid-1960s further strengthened this support. Derek Hoff writes, “The purported connection between population growth and the urban crisis…injected a fresh dose of racial politics into a population discussion already tainted and racialized via the unfortunate legacy of eugenics” (31).

Right-wing enthusiasm for population control began to wane precipitously, however, when zero-growth efforts became associated with the pro-choice movement (giving way to right-wing resistance from groups like the Population Research Institute and the World Council of Families, which I discussed previously). Additionally, libertarian groups embraced population growth as integral to populist efforts, and the rise of neoliberalism thrust regulation to the political margins. Nonetheless, certain right-wing elements of the zero population growth movement remained.

One such element was the right-wing nativist contingent. 1979 saw the inception of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a virulently nativist organization that began by couching its racist agenda in unscientific environmentalist arguments for shrinking the immigrant population in the United States. According to Priscilla Huang of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), a number of FAIR’s highest positions are held by people with “ties to white supremacist groups,” and the organization has been the recipient of more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, whose other grantees include groups that perform “research in eugenics and ‘race science’” (394). FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has openly embraced eugenics. (Tanton also played an integral role in founding NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, which both advance nativist efforts to restrict immigration.) The Southern Poverty Law Center has named FAIR a hate group.

FAIR is not alone in exploiting fears of climate change and resource scarcity to foster anti-immigrant sentiment and shape anti-immigrant legislation, but it is spearheading the charge. FAIR is the largest anti-immigrant organization in the U.S., and probably the most influential. With ample congressional influence and a reported 250,000 members, FAIR cannot be dismissed as merely a fringe group.

Nativist advocates of population control have attempted to square their agenda with the anti-choice philosophies of the Right by claiming, as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) did in 2007, “If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn’t need illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today” (Huang, 403). The subtext of this ludicrous assertion is that abortion (that evil of evils) is killing the good children: the White ones.

DeLay’s line of reasoning also smooths over another major break between the anti-choice Right and the population control movement. To right-wing libertarians who seek to shrink government, DeLay (along with those who have made similar arguments) suggests that curtailing immigration and immigrant populations will preserve the integrity of a U.S. libertarian movement by restoring power to the right (read: White) people.

In a memo titled “Latin Onslaught,” John Tanton says that White people’s “power and control over their lives [is] declining” as “a group that is simply more fertile” procreates itself to majority status (Sánchez, 2). As Tanton would have it, big government and a growing Latino voting base are co-conspirators in the effort to rob “real” Americans of the autonomy and supremacy they are due. (“More fertile,” of course, implies more promiscuous, more sexual, more irresponsible—all stereotypes with which women of color are branded. In true eugenic fashion, it also implies innate bodily difference from white women.)

Historically, nativist efforts to quell the perceived threat of Latina women’s fertility have gone far beyond altering immigration patterns. An article by Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Taja Lindley at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explains that coercive sterilizations of Latina/o people who could become pregnant were widespread in the 1960s and 1970s. This abuse, the authors say, was motivated by “[f]ears about over-population, welfare dependency, increased spending for public services, and illegitimate childbearing,” which “fueled stereotypes about both women of color and immigrant women, and led health professionals and State policymakers to intimidate ‘undesirable’ women into agreeing to surgical sterilization.”

In 1978, ten Chicana women who were coercively sterilized at a Los Angeles County hospital (whose obstetric residents had a quota for tubal ligations) over a four-year period went to court seeking justice. While Madrigal v. Quilligan ultimately led to the enactment of important regulations for obstetricians, the ruling favored the doctors who had performed the surgeries, affirming the stereotype that Mexican women tend to have excessive numbers of children and determining that “it was not objectionable for an obstetrician to think that a tubal ligation could improve a perceived overpopulation problem,” or to perform the procedure in compliance with this racialized and politicized theory. (Read Alexandra Minna Stern’s thorough analysis of the politics of Madrigal here.) Latina organizers, including those who bravely went before the court in Madrigal, worked tirelessly to abolish tubal ligations performed under coercion or without informed consent.

Yet Latina women’s fertility remains a target of right-wing attacks. FAIR and its allies continue to argue (falsely) that hyper-fecund Latina women come to the United States in droves to give birth so that their children—derisively referred to as “anchor-babies”—can reap the benefits of big government’s welfare policies. To mitigate this problem, they propose amending the U.S. Constitution to deny citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented parents, which is currently guaranteed by the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Huang points out that this project, if realized, would create a subjugable second class of “U.S.-born ‘alien’ children…a classification that would apply only to the offspring of immigrant women, the majority of whom are women of color” (401).

The institutionalization of such a racialized classification system would be utterly deplorable. It would undoubtedly visit unspeakable harm on many of the most vulnerable families in the United States; it would erect enormous barriers to access and gut protections for people already deprived of their rights and of recourse. But it would not be unique.

In the next part of this series, I endeavor to problematize the very notion of immigrants to the U.S., which is manifestly premised on racism and exclusion. This installment will discuss U.S. culpability in promoting sterilization as part of the ongoing genocide of Native American people.

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Reclaiming Stolen Wages: The Koreatown Immigrant Workers’ Association

By Mariya Strauss
Mariya Strauss is a Maryland-based writer who researches economic justice issues for PRA. Her investigative journalism and commentary have been published in The Nation, at the GlobalComment blog, and The Public Eye magazine, among others. You can follow her on Twitter at @mariyastrauss.

**This article is a companion to PRA’s Dark Money, Dirty War: The Corporate Crusade Against Low-Wage Workers**

A hive of activity in central Los Angeles since 1992, the Koreatown Immigrant Workers’ Association (KIWA) offers English classes, workers’ rights clinics, and housing advocacy for the area’s wide range of ethnic populations, according to executive director Alexandra Suh. “It’s a very diverse neighborhood,” Suh said. “Anyone who wants to come in and join is welcome to do so.” KIWA’s members are overwhelmingly Korean and anyone who identifies as Latino. The neighborhood of Koreatown is 58 percent Latino (which includes people from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other Central American countries), but Koreans make up the single largest ethnic group. Other groups that KIWA works with include African Americans, South Asians, Chinese, and others.

A KIWA action in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Charlie Kaijo

A KIWA action in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Charlie Kaijo

The approximately 5,000 immigrants and low-wage workers that KIWA serves could be considered poor, working poor, or working class. Many of them work precarious part-time and low-wage jobs. But rather than approaching these populations with an attitude of charity, KIWA approaches them with a message of solidarity. Its mission statement explains this approach: “KIWA seeks to strengthen progressive, immigrant worker leadership as part of a broad-based movement for social change.”

KIWA’s Worker Empowerment Clinic provides workshops and technical support for workers to learn their rights and how to recover their stolen wages. KIWA says that it “stands with” workers who are abused and exploited, helping them get more press coverage to expose bad-actor employers; it also organizes tenants and acts as a real estate developer to build more affordable housing in central Los Angeles.

The need for KIWA’s organizing work is real. Los Angeles’ low-wage workers face rampant wage theft and other wage-and-hour violations. A 2010 study by UCLA researchers found that the nearly three quarters of a million low-wage workers in Los Angeles County “regularly experience violations of basic laws that mandate a minimum wage and overtime pay and are frequently forced to work off the clock or during their breaks.” Respondents to the survey used in the study reported losing an average of $39.81 out of a weekly average wage of $318—meaning their employers stole an average of 12.5 percent of their earnings every week. “Assuming a full-year work schedule,” wrote the researchers, “these workers lost an average of $2,070.00 annually due to workplace violations, out of total annual earn­ings of $16,536.00.”

The need for organizing for better working conditions and an end to wage theft is so great that KIWA is now banding together with other Los Angeles-based worker centers to form a new group: the L.A. Worker Center Federation. Suh, who is acting director of the new group, said that the goal of both KIWA and the new L.A. Worker Center Federation is to proactively create a movement of low-wage workers—not simply respond to wage violations.

“I’ve seen how hard many business owners work and how much they struggle—including some of my family members and friends,” she said. “Business owners in the trenches where wage theft is worst know better than anyone the bitterness of the race to the bottom. I would invite honest businesspeople to speak out and join us in the movement to create workplaces where all are respected. We need businesspeople of integrity to go all in on the side of justice, and help create a community where everyone can thrive.”

Frazier Glenn Miller & The Ongoing Trend of Former-Military Neo-Nazi Murders

Military Veterans and the White Separatist Underground’s Cult of Violence

image via Mike Fox and NBC News

image via Mike Fox and NBC News

The recent murders at two Jewish institutions in Kansas City—apparently committed by former Nazi and Klansman Frazier Glenn Miller—unfortunately come as little surprise, as it was at least the third such incident in the United States in the last five years alone. In 2012, Nazi skinhead Michael Wade Page murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and in 2009 Holocaust denier James Von Brunn murdered a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

All three perpetrators fit a very specific pattern: military veterans; involved in White nationalist politics for years; felt (apparently) their lives were at an end; decided to go out and murder unsuspecting civilians at the very public institutions which their politics had always targeted.

Miller is 73 and has emphysema. Von Brunn was 88 and died soon after the shooting. Wade was only 40, but committed suicide rather than surrender at the murder scene.

Unfortunately, this trend looks like it will continue into the future. Each of these men were products of a political environment that praised violence and glorified death. And so it seems safe to assume that as long as the violence-driven White separatist and White supremacist political underground remains, at least some of their activists can be expected to end their lives in such a manner in the future.

Frazier Glenn Miller

The ideology of White supremacy that Miller embraced has historically been intertwined with the use of institutional violence, from the genocide of Native Americans and American slavery to the lynchings of African-Americans. The Ku Klux Klan, often aided by local police, resisted the Civil Rights Movement with intimidation and murder. But even after the battle to defend segregation was lost and most Southern police agencies distanced themselves from the Klan, White separatist and supremacist groups have continued the open use of violence—only now without institutional backing—against religious, racial, and sexual minorities.

In recent decades, White nationalists moved from being pro-government, patriotic Americans—in the 1940s, one could support Jim Crow segregation at home and still fight the Nazis abroad—to being anti-system, right-wing revolutionaries. Bolstered by the Nazi skinhead subculture that exploded in the 1980s, this change from pro- to anti-system helped foster an ongoing culture of extreme violence. For such a small political movement, its members commit a fantastic number of violent criminal acts, which have included political assassinations, murders in public and domestic settings, and bombings which seek to inflict mass casualties. All of this is a microcosm of the violence praised by the historic fascist movement and its philosophical valorization of the “act”—as well as its practice of “total war” and racial genocide.

Miller played a central role in this shift towards revolutionary Far Right militancy. Originally a member of the White nationalist National States Rights Party, he later joined the neo-Nazi National Socialist Party of America, with whom he took part in the Greensboro Massacre of five left-wing, anti-racist protestors. He then formed the Carolina Ku Klux Klan, which morphed into the White Patriot Party (WPP), described by Leonard Zeskind as a “hybrid organization [which] grafted uniformed paramilitarism and Naziesque ideology onto its roots as a white-robed Klan group.”* This was part of what is called the “Nazification of the Klan,” when Nazi and Klan groups overcame historical divisions and grew closer in ideology and collaboration.

Miller has described himself as “ultra Right plus a million miles.” His party’s platform was “Southern independence. The creation of an all-White nation within the one million square miles of mother Dixie. We have no hope for Jew York City or San Fran-cissy-co and other areas that are dominated by Jews, perverts, and communists and non-White-minorities and rectum-loving queens.” The group’s prerecorded phone messages included “the simulated voice of a black man being lynched.” This approach proved quite popular: by 1985, Miller claimed the WPP had 2,500 members, and they held public marches with hundreds of members dressed in camouflage uniforms and black berets. In 1984, Miller ran for North Carolina governor and received 5,000 votes.**

A member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, Miller retired from the military in 1979, but used his military background to recruit soldiers and accumulate an arsenal that included anti-tank rockets. He received $200,000 from the underground White nationalist terror group The Order (Brüder Schweigen), and was involved in a plot to kill Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Meanwhile, former members of the WPP were arrested in a triple murder in a gay bookstore in 1987.)

That same year, Miller was arrested, fled underground, and issued a “Declaration of War” against the federal government. Caught shortly thereafter with a cache of weapons, he flipped, testifying against his fellow White nationalists in the Fort Smith sedition trial. Released after serving three years in prison, he kept a relatively low profile until recently, as he had been shunned by his former colleagues as a snitch. But apparently his political views had not changed. After his arrest in Kansas City, Miller yelled “Heil Hitler!” at a television crew from the back of a police car. Although we don’t know his motives yet, he seems to have surrendered peacefully and knows he’ll probably serve the rest of his life in prison.

James Von Brunn

A Navy veteran, Von Brunn had links to antisemitic groups going back to the 1970s, and was connected to various figures in the White nationalist movement. In 1981, he brought a shotgun into a Federal Reserve meeting, hoping to kidnap board members and read a televised speech; he served eight years in jail for the crime, though he blamed the “negro jury” and “Jew judge” for the sentence. Telling his ex-wife he was planning to go out “with his boots on,” in June of 2009 Von Brunn went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and murdered a guard. Wounded at the scene, Von Brunn died of natural causes six months later.

Michael Wade Page

Page served in the Army in the 1990s before being discharged for “patterns of misconduct” (alcoholism). He was somewhat unusual in that he apparently became involved in Nazi skinhead activities not as a teenager, but rather when he was almost 30. A “patched-in” member of the Hammerskins—an international racist skinhead organization whose reputation for violence is notable even among skinheads—he played in racist bands before life turned sour as the 40 year old as he lost his job, his girlfriend left him, and his house was foreclosed on.

In 2012, he opened fire at a Sikh temple and murdered six unarmed worshippers before he shot himself in the head after he was wounded by a police officer during a gun battle.

And there are many others who fit the profile a little less precisely. For example, former Marine J.T. Ready was an anti-immigrant activist who formed two armed vigilante border patrol groups in Arizona. A recent member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, in 2012 he murdered four people in what was apparently a domestic dispute and then killed himself.

The military background of each of these men is unsettling, as it provides weapons training and sometimes combat experience. Veterans are known to suffer from high rates of domestic violence, suicide, and mental health problems. But veterans come in all political stripes, and it’s the simmering violence in the White separatist and supremacist milieu that’s clearly the spark.

Action Over Thought – More To Come

The Nazi and Klan political environments cultivate a cult of the warrior, often draped in Viking imagery which praises soldiers who go to Valhalla. It promotes action over thought, and a deeply patriarchal mindset that attacks Jews and non-Europeans and accuses them of weakness, disease, and of diluting a strong White identity.

Having spent years immersed in these narratives, and facing the end of their lives, some longtime militant Far Right activists are choosing violent ends—even if their supposed warrior deaths turn out to be cowardly assassinations. They seek soft targets and murder unsuspecting—and usually unarmed—civilians.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of Millers, Von Brunns, and Pages. In recent years, the White separatist violence of past decades has simmered down. Klan groups are declining, as the less-explicitly-bigoted Patriot movement is in ascendance. The skinhead culture has lost its youthful cache, and most of the prominent Nazi skinhead groups have collapsed. But the ultra-violent culture these men thrived in during their prime still retains its mental hold on thousands of aging, troubled men. We should brace ourselves for more of them to take the same path out when they decide their lives are at an end.

However, one thing that could be done to lessen these scenarios would be to support the work of “transitioning out” programs, which help neo-Nazi and similar activists escape the political scene they often are trapped in. Those wishing to exit are often threatened by their colleagues, and need help removing White supremacist tattoos, finding jobs, moving themselves and their families to safe locations, and establishing new social networks. The lack of availability of these programs often leads disenchanted militant Far Rightists back into their established social and political networks, which—in the cases looked at here—can have tragic results for both themselves, their families, and their victims. Groups like One People’s Project (onepeoplesproject.com) and Life After Hate (lifeafterhate.org) are open to help those wishing to exit these politics and start new lives.

* Leonard Zeskind, Blood and Politics (New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009), 131.
** Cited in James Ridgeway, Blood in the Face, second edition (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1995), 118–19.

Related:

SPLC has published several phone calls between the head of their Intelligence Project, Heidi Beirich, and Frazier Glenn Miller. You can see all of them here.

CPAC Counter Events Include Security Con, Ted Cruz, & Secretive White Nationalist Gathering

Senator Ted Cruz speaks at "Univited II"

Senator Ted Cruz and Frank Gaffney speak at “Univited II”

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was kicked off Thursday morning by Sen. Ted Cruz with a fiery speech covered on most of the major network and cable broadcasts.  But Cruz gave another, less publicized speech later in the day at a counter-event held a few blocks away from CPAC.  This was one of a several alternative events being held in conjunction in CPAC, hosted by and featuring those the American Conservative Union chose not to include in their annual gathering.

The Uninvited II 

The conference held yesterday (Thursday) was titled “The Uninvited II:  The National Security Action Summit,” hosted by Breitbart News Network and held a few blocks away at the Westin hotel.  Last year, Breitbart News hosted an impromptu panel on the last day of the CPAC to discuss security issues not included in the official schedule.  It was titled “The Uninvited,” and included former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Rosemary Jenks, Frank Gaffney, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, and others.  This year, a full day counter-event was planned in advance, featuring some of those same speakers plus James O’Keefe, Rep. Peter King, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. “Jerry” Boykin, Phyllis Schafley, Sen. David Vitter, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, and others.  Live streamed by Breitbart News, the event was a gathering of immigration foes and security hawks, moderated by Frank Gaffney.  The URL for reserving a space at the conference was HomelandThreats.com, hosted by sponsor EMPact America.

Panels included:

  • The Muslim Brotherhood, the “Civilization Jihad” and Its Enablers
  • Amnesty and Open Borders: The End of America – and the End of the GOP
  • Benghazigate: The Ugly Truth and the Cover-Up
  • Protecting the Grid: Correct Its Vulnerabilities – or a “World Without America”

The full schedule of events can be viewed on their website.

Breitbart News Chairman Steve Brannon had a busy day shuttling back and forth between the official CPAC and the “Uninvited,” attending the official conference for the awarding of the first annual “Citizens United Andrew Breitbart First Amendment Award” to Mark Levin.

In the video below, Brannon is interviewed about the reasons for hosting Uninvited II.  As Brannon notes, it is their hope that these issues will be included at future CPACs, eliminating the need for the “Uninvited” events.

But the highlight of the alternative conference was a midday speech by Sen. Ted Cruz, who presented himself to the audience as an alternative to the “extremes of the spectrum on security” represented by Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. John McCain. Cruz described himself as a third choice for “peace through strength” in the mold of Ronald Reagan. The well received speech has been posted on Sen. Cruz’s official youtube account. This year’s CPAC is the beginning of the 2016 GOP presidential marathon, with 26 candidates included in the Saturday straw poll sponsored by the Washington Times.

The background with the transmission tower graphic in photo above of Cruz and Gaffney is that of EMPact America, a sponsoring organization dedicated to warning about electromagnetic pulse, the topic of the last panel of the day. EMPact is encouraging United States military action against Iran, claiming the Middle Eastern nation could take out the electrical grid of the United States by way of electromagnetic.

Newt Gingrich had been scheduled for the “Uninvited II” but dropped out, reportedly due to the tone of the publicity of the event.  Gingrich was then approached by the American Conservative Union to help develop a last minute panel on Ukraine for CPAC.

White Nationalist “Unconference”

An “Unconference” is being held tonight (Friday) by Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute, a white nationalist organization.  Spencer announced he would be “crashing” CPAC, but the NPI is sponsoring a separate evening event with speaker Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance, followed by an open bar and “unconference.”  The location of the event was being kept secret until today, but advertised as within a few blocks of the CPAC convention.

White nationalists have previously tried to attend and influence the CPAC conference, including efforts by Jamie Kelso, a former aide to KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, to covert young attendees to his brand of overt white supremacism (see the video below).

Conservative Divisions 

CPAC has become a bellwether for monitoring the divisions between conservatives. In recent years, the American Conservative Union has invited and uninvited groups ranging from GOProud to the John Birch Society.  Most mainstream media is describing the conservative split as one between the GOP establishment and the Tea Partiers, but there are other paradigms for describing the current divides.  The security counter-conference highlights the split between neo-conservative security hawks and the growing paleo-libertarian and libertarian factions on the Right.  The revival of paleo-conservatism and paleo-libertarianism was a featured topic in my recent article “Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right”, co-authored by Frank Cocozzelli.

Taking the Voting-Rights Battle to the States and the Streets

Protesting outside the NC General Assembly building. Photo courtesy of Grant Baldwin.

Protesting outside the NC General Assembly building. Photo courtesy of Grant Baldwin.

On June 25, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, which established a formula for determining whether states and jurisdictions need permission from the federal government to change their voting procedures. As a result, there is no mechanism to enforce Section 5 of the VRA, which allows the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to freeze and review changes in voting procedures in locales with a history of voter suppression.

The majority of the justices in the case, Shelby County v. Holder, reasoned that the pre-clearance formula was outdated, since Jim Crow-era voting restrictions like the poll tax and literacy test have been abolished. But voting restrictions are far from a relic of the past. Between January 2011 and October 2012, 25 restrictive voter ID laws and two executive actions passed in 19 states, according to a 2012 “Voting Laws Roundup” by the Brennan Center for Justice. Many were struck down by federal courts, including some by the DOJ under the provisions of Section 4(b). Within two days of Section 4(b) being overturned, six states that were at least partly covered under Section 5 moved forward with voter restrictions.

In light of what is at stake, it would be foolish to rely on the dysfunctional U.S. Congress to address this injustice. Nor is it sufficient to rely on legal challenges brought by organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Though absolutely crucial, they cannot serve all jurisdictions, and the seriousness of this challenge requires a broad-based, popular response.

It’s time to demonstrate our commitment to free and fair elections by building large-scale, broad-based coalitions at the state level—and taking them to the streets. This is precisely what the North Carolina Moral Monday movement, guided by the NC-NAACP, has been doing since April. All told, tens of thousands have flocked to the General Assembly building in Raleigh on Monday afternoons, protesting the extreme policies of the Republican-dominated General Assembly. Because of gerrymandering, nine of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. Representatives are Republicans, though the state’s voters are split almost evenly between the two parties.

The weekly protests top 3,000 participants. About 1,000 peaceful demonstrators have been arrested (as of late July). To make this possible, the NC-NAACP spearheaded a coalition of 150 progressive and/or non-partisan organizations that have come together to defend equal protection for all. In addition to traditional civil-rights organizations, the coalition includes groups with concerns as varied as reproductive justice, economic inequality, education, labor rights, immigration reform, criminal-justice reform, and faith-based social justice.

Protesters have made strong gains in reaching out to residents. The Republican-led legislative body no longer enjoys majority support, even within its own party, and the General Assembly’s approval rate has fallen to just 20 percent, according to a mid-July poll by Public Policy Polling.

The next goal is to provide avenues for citizens throughout the state to take part in the ongoing uprising. It will be nearly a decade before the next federally-mandated congressional redistricting (the process of redrawing legislative boundaries, which happens after every U.S. Census). In the meantime, the decline in popular support for Republican leadership means that the GOP has more incentive than ever to rig elections to favor Republican candidates. In late July, the North Carolina General Assembly began pursuing that goal by passing legislation that requires voters to show government-issued photo IDs at the polls and ends same-day voter registration. The legislation also weakens campaign donation disclosure laws.

North Carolinians face a long-term battle. The Supreme Court’s ruling means the DOJ will not come to the aid of jurisdictions previously covered under Section 4(b). With so much authority ceded to states, people who value free and fair elections must localize efforts, cast voting rights as foundational, and embrace broad inclusivity.

In North Carolina, this is creating intersectional solidarity rather than diluting the message. Weekly protesters include everyone from disaffected Republicans to members of the Occupy movement. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of the people. As the president of the NC-NAACP, Rev. Dr. William Barber, noted at the July 22 protests, “Our parents already won this fight with less than we have now.” And from here, the path is clear: “Forward together! Not one step back!”

This profile also appears in the Summer 2013 issue of the of PRA’s Public Eye magazine.


Dan Peltier, a Summer 2013 Research and Editorial Intern at PRA, recently interviewed Leigh Bordley about her participation in the “Moral Monday” protests. A lifelong resident of North Carolina, Bordley has been a member of the Durham, NC, school board since 2008. She served as executive director of Partners for Youth from 1998-2011. She has also been a consultant for Literacy South and the director of development for NC Equity. Bordley became active in the protests because she believes that legislation recently passed by the General Assembly doesn’t represent North Carolina’s true values. She attended five protests in Raleigh and was arrested during one of them. 

A lot of the media attention has focused on the protests as being heavily based in Christian prayer and teaching, including an article in which you say you “went as a Christian.”  What is your take on the Christian connection?

I went as a Christian because I am a liberal. Jesus taught that we should all help people living in poverty. Much of the legislation getting passed by Republicans is harming the poor and not helping to grow our state’s economy. It just made perfect sense to me to go to these protests and pray that the representatives hear our complaints and realize that they don’t speak for the majority of North Carolinians. I was arrested at one of the protests for speaking out against this legislature and was put in jail with the other arrestees. It was fun but not ideal. It was like a big party with no food. There were elderly people and teachers, and we all supported each other. We went to jail for what we believe in and for expressing our opinions.

Leigh Bordley

Leigh Bordley

Even though the General Assembly is now in summer recess, the protests don’t seem to be losing momentum.  Would you say that this is a sign of their success?

A: Success is hard to gauge.  We didn’t seem to get through to the Republicans. But I think we definitely made some voters second guess why they chose to elect some of the people who are behind some of the horrible legislation getting passed. That’s why myself and other Forward Together Movement members are continuing the protests and taking them on the road to all of the major cities across the state–so that voters are aware of how they are being represented, and to show that we have endurance and won’t back down.

Q: The Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the NC-NAACP (which organized the protests), has said that “our parents already won this fight with less than we have now.” What are your thoughts on that? 

A: I grew up in the 1960s, watching the civil rights movement unfold, and a lot of it took place in nearby cities such as Greensboro. The African-American civil rights movement was driven by desperation and excitement, and people thought that real change was coming. While some things have changed, so many others have stayed the same.  Today, our fight is not as exciting. It can be very discouraging and even disheartening.  It certainly doesn’t feel like we’re any further along, and I’m not sure if we’ve made a net gain or that we ever “won” anything.

Q: This is the first time in more than a century that Republicans have controlled the General Assembly. Do you see North Carolina as a new battleground for the Right, and what do you see as potential future challenges?

A: This will not be an easy fight. Democrats have suffered from gerrymandering, and this is a backlash against progressives. I feel hopeful about our chances, but we really need to convince voters in these gerrymandered districts that the Republicans are not acting in their best interests. This is our biggest challenge. I have experience in working on the Obama campaign, and I know that this will not be easy–but that with enough help, we can try to make a difference. These protests have been and continue to be extremely well organized, so we have that on our side. I am a lifelong resident of North Carolina and have seen that, historically, the state has been fairly moderate. All of a sudden, it is so far right that I don’t even recognize my own state anymore. I had to get involved and do something, because what is going on inside the General Assembly Building is not the real North Carolina.

“Bipartisan” Evangelical Rev. Rodriguez Conservative Even on Immigration

RodriguezGreat value is placed on being bipartisan in Washington, D.C., today.  Or, at least, appearing bipartisan.  That may be part of the secret of the remarkable success of Christian Right leader Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), who manages to appear bipartisan without actually being bipartisan. Rodriguez claims he supports the “agenda of the Lamb” (a biblical metaphor for Jesus) rather than the Democratic donkey or the Republican elephant, a self-portrayal the media eats up, but his version always turns out to be conservative and Republican–as illustrated by the latest revelations about his role in immigration reform.

Early in the first Obama administration, Rodriguez was presented as one of a new breed of moderate evangelical leaders who, along with Rick Warren, would displace the Christian Right old guard. Neither managed to maintain the facade. Warren exited stage right after being repeatedly exposed, as Rob Boston put it, as “Jerry Falwell in a Hawaiian shirt,” including for his role attacking LGBTQ rights in Uganda, as exposed by PRA’s Globalizing the Culture Wars. Meanwhile, Rodriguez was abandoned by liberals and the Democratic Party in the wake of his strident anti-Muslim, anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality, and overtly pro-Republican politics.

Yet Rodriguez has survived, largely in the media, as a figure who transcends racial, religious and political divides on immigration reform. But even on immigration, his signature issue across two presidential administrations, he has a controversial and decidedly conservative record. In 2009, he publicly deprioritized immigration reform (as I report in The Public Eye), declaring that if we got it right on abortion and marriage, God would take care of immigration. Now that immigration has moved to the center of public policy discussion, it is worth surfacing more of his record. Read More

Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law SB1070

Where did it it come from, where is it going?

Kris Kobach campaigns for Kansas Secretary of State (©Mike Yoder)

Kris Kobach campaigns for Kansas Secretary of State (©Mike Yoder)

Misericordia.

The word washes across the congregation at the tiny church, carried by voices singing in Spanish.

Mercy.

Young girls, their long, shiny black hair covered in sheer white doilies, sit close to each other in the pews at Surprise Apostolic Assembly in suburban Phoenix, Arizona, chattering and giggling into their hands. Mothers and grandmothers, their hair covered in scarves of black lace, lean over and gently shush them. A handsome young man with baby-smooth skin and glistening hair neatly parted at the side steps forward to the pulpit. Steve Montenegro, the youth minister, beckons to the congregation’s children, who gather at his feet. He praises the little ones for their innocence as their mothers snap photos from the pews.

Steve’s father, José Roberto Montenegro, the church’s pastor, delivers the sermon in Spanish, as the son translates, switching easily between the two languages. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” the older Montenegro says, quoting from the book of Proverbs.

In the early 1980s, when Steve was only a baby, the Montenegro family fled from El Salvador to the United States. With help from the Apostolic Assembly, the refugees applied for and received asylum on the basis of their religion, making it possible for Steve to become a U.S. citizen.1

In 2008, Steve Montenegro was elected to the Arizona state house with strong conservative support.2 Last spring, he became the only Latino lawmaker to cast a vote in favor of the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, otherwise known as SB1070, the notorious state law that requires state and local police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest or suspect is in the country illegally. The law places the burden of proof on those questioned by the police to prove they are in the country legally; if they can’t, they will be arrested and charged with trespassing. Known informally as the Show Me Your Papers Law or, more derisively, Driving While Brown, SB 1070’s stated purpose is to crack down on the state’s estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants. As Arizona’s senate president and the bill’s primary sponsor, Republican Russell Pearce, wrote on his website,

The fact is Arizona’s motto is ‘Attrition by Enforcement’ and 90% will self-deport. …[T]hose who say we need reform (code word Amnesty), because we can’t deport them all, [are] saying come on in illegally, we don’t intend to enforce our laws.3

April 23 was the anniversary of Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of SB1070. Just a few weeks before that, on April 11, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld District Court Judge Susan Bolton’s July 2010 injunction against the enforcement of certain provisions of SB1070, including those that require immigrants to carry their papers at all times and police officers to check suspects’ immigration status. The 9th Circuit concluded that there was sufficient evidence that these parts of the law infringe on federal jurisdiction. Pearce has vowed to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.4 Despite the injunction, the law’s impact has been widely felt, across the state and nationally. Other states are preparing similar legislation, and immigrants with legal papers and without are living in fear.

Pentecostal observers say that the Montenegros’ Apostolic Assembly denomination, with its large Hispanic membership, includes individuals of questionable documentation, who would pay a heavy price for their spiritual brother’s support of SB 1070.5

Yet, like his Tea Party colleagues, Montenegro has been an active sponsor of a series of recently rejected anti-immigration bills, which critics say were even more draconian than SB1070. He was also the prime sponsor of Arizona’s latest anti-abortion law, signed by Brewer in March, which makes it a crime to get an abortion because of the race or gender of the fetus and requires minority women to sign a document explaining their reasons for seeking the procedure.6

When I interviewed him in September regarding his support for SB1070, Montenegro declined to discuss how he was able to reconcile his votes with his religious beliefs and his church. “We don’t mix religion and politics,” he told me. “If you’re working on a story about what the religious experience has to do with [the law], I don’t think that’s fair.” He added that he and his family came to the United States legally, and that people who accuse him of being hypocritical are stereotyping him. At a Tea Party rally Montenegro summed up his position: “The fact that I can speak in Spanish doesn’t automatically make me a protax, open border liberal hopelessly addicted to big government spending. So today we send government a message: don’t mess with my liberties, don’t mess with my faith, and don’t mess with my wallet.”7

That a Spanish-speaking immigrant and Latino church leader is a major supporter of SB1070 says much about the disparate elements that came together to pass the most restrictive anti-immigration law in the country—an unhealthy brew of Wall Street greed, political opportunism, and nativist fears.

The Mexican Financial Crisis, U.S. Banks, and the Private Prison Industry

Today’s debates about U.S. immigration policy have roots in the December 1994 Mexican financial panic. On the heels of NAFTA, Mexico emerged nearly bankrupt because of bond debt to Wall Street banks. The peso was devalued by forty percent. The U.S. government pushed the International Monetary Fund to give Mexico money so it could put together a package to pay its creditors, most of which were the Wall Street banks.8 The IMF then contracted out the bailout loan to the U.S. Treasury.9 Mark Fineman of the Los Angeles Times reported, “Three weeks after it started receiving one of the biggest and most controversial credit packages in U.S. history, the Mexican government has spent a fifth of the $20 billion in promised U.S. loans to pay off American insurance companies, mutual fund investors, Wall Street brokerage houses, Mexican banks and the richest of Mexico’s rich.”10

To meet its crushing debt to Wall Street, the Mexican government increased interest rates at the behest of the U.S. Treasury. The rates on business and farm loans rose from an average of eleven percent to 56 percent. Those on credit-card debt went from seven percent to 61 percent. The rates on home loans increased from an average of five percent to 75 percent.11

The impact on Mexican citizens was devastating. Thousands of farms and businesses, both large and small, went bankrupt. Jobs disappeared, and people could no longer support their families. The economic hardships prompted a wave of mass migration, as millions of men, women, and children crossed Mexico’s northern border seeking work.

The Private Prison Companies Get Involved

In December 2006, more than a thousand men and women were arrested and detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids at meat-packing plants across the U.S. Instead of being charged with misdemeanors such as the misuse of a social security number—the U.S. practice since 1995—they were charged with crimes that carry lengthy prison sentences, such as falsifying documents or identity theft. The charges marked a significant shift in the enforcement of federal immigration policy.12

As Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, the executive director of Enlace, a group that helps low-wage workers develop and strengthen their organizations, wrote in an analysis for the Americas Program think tank, the shift spelled good news for the for-profit prison industry. Although the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, across the country, crime rates were down.13 Private prison corporations, no longer able to keep their jails filled, had lost contracts and shuttered doors.14 Now, however, wrote Cervantes-Gautschi,

This single change in enforcement of existing law created a potential “market” of over 10 million new felons almost overnight, multiplying the lucrative incarceration market for the private prison industry and sending a shock wave through immigrant-related communities across the country.15

A report by the Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest for-profit prison company, noted that “[e]xecutives believe immigrant detention is their next big market.” CCA, said the report, was expecting to bring in “a significant portion of our revenues” from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).16 Many of the same banking institutions that profited from the Mexican financial crisis of the 1990s, such as JP Morgan and the Bank of America, are now investing heavily in the private prison industry, enabling them once again to profit from those who lost their jobs and businesses following the Mexico bailout.17

Kris Kobach, Crusading Attorney

In 2002, Kris Kobach was a 33-year-old advisor to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, working in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. There, he was “intimately involved,” as he says, in writing a memo arguing that local and state police have the power to arrest undocumented immigrants for civil violations of immigration law.18 Kobach’s memo directly contradicted opinions issued by his office in 1989 and 1996, which stated that only federal agents have that power, and his memo never became official policy.

In 2003, he left the department, and a year later, he was hired as senior counsel to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization that works to curtail immigration, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has identified as a White nationalist hate group.19 In its report, SPLC cites John Tanton, FAIR’s founder, who wrote that a clear “European-American majority” is needed to protect American culture.20

Although Kobach’s Department of Justice memo never went anywhere, Kobach uses it to justify the authority of local law enforcement in immigration matters. In a May 18, 2010, article, theWashington Post wrote that “ [Kobach] … has cited the authority granted in the 2002 memo as a basis for the legislation.”21—and he is behind the anti-immigration laws that have started popping up in towns across the country, writing them and then defending them in court.

He has had limited success, however, in selling his arguments to judges. In 2007, he was brought in to defend a law in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, in a case that heated up the national anti-immigrant climate. Hazleton’s municipal ordinance made it a crime for landlords to rent to undocumented immigrants and required all tenants to register with the city. As Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta said at the time, Kobach intended to make the law “legally bulletproof.”22 Nevertheless, in 2007, a federal district court judge struck it down as unconstitutional. In September 2010, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court’s ruling that immigration law falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Hazleton has appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has remanded it back to the Third Circuit. “Mr. Kobach’s experiments in pushing immigration enforcement to states and municipalities has real-world consequences, fueling xenophobia and pitting neighbor against neighbor,” said the Legal Director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Witold Walczak, who argued the case.23

Last fall, Kobach was elected Kansas secretary of state, running on a pledge to end immigrant voter fraud—even though he provided no credible evidence that this problem exists. He cited one case, in which he claimed that someone who had died in 1996 had voted in August 2010. However, theWichita Eagle found the “dead” man outside his house raking leaves.24

Russell Pearce, FAIR, and ALEC

Both nativists and the private prison industry were at the center of developing and passing SB1070;Arizona’s Senator Pearce has ties to both.

His connections to FAIR go back to at least 2004, when he was the co-chairman of the campaign for Proposition 200, a voter-approved law that cut off benefits to undocumented immigrants.25 The ballot initiative marked FAIR’s first foray into Arizona politics, for which the organization spent $500,000 in lobbying the public.26

A report by the Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest for-profit prison company, noted, “Executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market.”

Certainly, FAIR and Kobach fingerprints are all over SB1070, with its references to pressuring undocumented immigrants to “self deport” and to “attrition through enforcement,” which come directly from FAIR’s talking points.27 Dan Pochoda, the legal director of the Arizona American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), points out that the enforcement strategy, also embraced by the Arizona Tea Party, is at the heart of all of Kobach’s cases.28 Still, Kobach’s previous ordinances had “only fiddled around” with giving local police enforcement responsibility, says SPLC Director of Research Heidi Beirich. “SB 1070 was a big innovation,” she notes.29

Kobach did not return phone calls for requests for an interview.

Pearce also has close connections to the prison industry, due to his membership in the American Legislative Enterprise Council (ALEC), a nonprofit, private membership organization that develops “model legislation” dedicated to advancing “free markets” and “limited government” for state lawmakers.30 In addition to the lawmakers, ALEC’s membership includes 200 corporations, who pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of gaining access to the state officials. Both CCA and Geo Group, another large private prison company, are corporate members of ALEC.31

Pearce is an ALEC lawmaker-member and serves on the council’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force—which also includes CCA representatives. Pearce admits that he submitted a draft to the task force of the bill that would become SB1070 in December 2009.32  Kobach says he helped draft a version of the law, likely the version that Pearce brought to ALEC.33

A month after Pearce presented the draft to the task force, the January-February edition of Inside ALEC published a list of the model legislation the council had approved at its December States and Nation Policy Summit, including this:

Resolution to Enforce Our Immigration Laws and Secure Our Borders Calls on states to enforce immigration laws and end sanctuary policies.

Calls on law enforcement officers to execute their authority to arrest any person guilty of hiring, harboring, or transporting illegal immigrants and to turn over illegal immigrants to federal authorities for removal from the United States.34

In March, Pearce introduced a bill into the Arizona state legislature that was practically identical to ALEC’s model legislation.

Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (with folder and without cowboy hat)

Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (with folder
and without cowboy hat)

For its part, CCA donated to the campaigns of thirty of the bill’s 36 cosponsors and hired a lobbyist to work the state capitol on the bill’s behalf. Two of Governor Brewer’s top advisors, Spokesman Paul Senseman and Campaign Manager Chuck Coughlin, are former lobbyists for the private prison industry.35

Tapping the Tea Party

Even though the forces that came together to pass SB1070, such as the private prison industry and ALEC, are powerful, neither group alone would have achieved such success. The prison industry’s lobbying efforts have been behind the scenes—in fact, it denies any lobbying at all. Obtaining grassroots support was crucial, and FAIR focused on generating it, tapping into Arizona’s motivated Tea Party movement.

FAIR set the stage for SB1070 with the Proposition 200 campaign. Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, which lobbies for comprehensive immigration reform, said thelegislation restricting public benefits to those who could not prove their immigration status, was in fact symbolic. “Few undocumented workers collect benefits, but [FAIR’s] strategy was to mobilize their base,” Sharry said. “In some ways [it became] the predecessor to the Tea Party. [FAIR] used online organizing to build a pretty formal cadre of activists around the country…. The anti-immigration movement has been able to stir up the Republican base so that the Republicans are scared of them in low-turnout elections.”36

FAIR invested a half-million dollars in the campaign, hiring signature gatherers and mobilizing support with a misinformation strategy, claiming (falsely) that undocumented immigrants cost the state $1.3 billion a year. To produce this number, a FAIR study included $810 million the state spends on educating the children of immigrants who are US citizens.37 The referendum campaign fanned the flames of anti-immigrant fears. “The Minutemen vigilantes have diverted the attention of the public and the media while their counterparts, sporting suits and ties in the state capitol, promote racist laws,” said Luis Herrera, an organizer with the St. Peter’s Housing Committee in San Francisco. “A war against immigrants and people of color has been declared in Arizona.”38

Margot Vernes, a community activist and volunteer with Corazon del Tucson, said that the White progressive community was reticent about the racist motivations of White nationalist movement, which helped the anti-immigrant movement in the long-term, setting the stage for the SB 1070 showdown.39

Proposition 200 passed with 56 percent of the vote.40

For the next few years, as Prop. 200 faced legal challenges, FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, headed by Kobach, spent its time and resources trying to institute anti-immigration policies at the local level. After losing several high profile cases such as the one in Hazleton, in 2009, Kobach and FAIR turned their attention back to Arizona. Governor Janet Napolitano had just been appointed Secretary of Homeland Security. Lieutenant Governor Jan Brewer, a staunch, conservative supportive of anti-immigration legislation, became the new governor, and Pearce moved into the powerful position of head of the Senate Appropriations Committee.41

The anti-immigration movement has been able to stir up the Republican base so that the Republicans are scared of them in low-turnout elections.

“Given all that, with the local ordinances held up in the courts, I suspect they figured, ‘Hey we’ve got strong support in Arizona,’” Sharry said. “Prop. 200 sowed the seed for SB1070, because FAIR had gotten to know Pearce at the time. They had gotten the Republican establishment behind them.” He continued,

There has been a significant demographic change in America. The White majority is getting increasingly fearful that they have lost control and [Republicans] have tapped into that fear.  California is already multi-ethnic. Arizona is next door and next up. The White majority population there thinks it’s losing out to the growth of the Hispanic community and are reacting in a very tribalistic way. FAIR and these groups are pretty skillful at blowing the dog whistle of demagoguery without being overtly racist.42

As evidence of the anti-immigrant groups’ success, Sharry points to the reversal of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on immigration reform. In 2005, McCain worked with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on a bipartisan plan that would have increased border security but also granted amnesty to illegal workers already in the country. By 2008, in response to anti-immigration activism, he changed his position and endorsed strict border crackdowns and blamed undocumented residents for “home invasions and murders.”43

“This is less a policy issue than it is a front on the culture war and in the partisan political war,” Sharry said.

The Tea Party, emerging in the wake of this anti-immigration fervor, embraced FAIR’s talking points and ran with them. Politicians like Montenegro curried favor with this motivated constituency.

Tea party support has not waned. In February, the Tea Party Patriots, a national umbrella group, held a so-called policy summit in Phoenix. In its invitation, the group wrote, “It will also be our opportunity to support the citizens of Arizona in their current political battles that carry so many national implications.”44

The Prison Industry Cleans Up

Even now, before SB1070 has gone into effect, there are twelve for-profit, private prison and detention facilities in the state of Arizona. CCA holds the federal contract to house detainees in Arizona who are suspected of violating immigration laws. When someone is arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally, the state or county must notify ICE, which then has 48 hours to determine the detainee’s status. Each day that CCA holds a detainee in one of its facilities means an additional payment, whether from the state, county, or federal government. According to Cervantes-Gautschi, CCA currently bills the Department of Homeland Security $11 million per month.“[CCA’s] stated goal is to make as much money as they can off detained immigrants,” he says.45

SB1070 would expand the private prison industry’s market, effectively turning state and local police officers into its very own taxpayer-funded sales team. The new trespassing offences created by the law carry a maximum of twenty days in jail for a first offense and thirty days for a second offense. (The main difference between the ALEC model legislation and the bill presented to Arizona legislators was that in the ALEC version, there was no maximum limit on how long a person could be detained.) Private prisons would profit handsomely from these sentencing guidelines—for which the state would be required to pick up the tab.

Although Pearce asserts that the law will reduce prison overcrowding, even the Arizona legislature’s own fiscal analysis predicts that it will bring greater numbers of prisoners into the system, increasing costs. The analysts admit, however, that they cannot put a dollar figure on the cost increase, because no one knows how many people will be rounded up.46

In absence of any credible figures, many are turning to a study done by the Yuma County Sheriff’s Department in 2006, in response to a bill similar to SB1070 that would have rounded up suspected undocumented immigrants, but that never made it into law. Yuma is one of Arizona’s fifteen counties, with a population of about 200,000. Sheriff Ralph E. Ogden estimated that county law-enforcement agencies would have to spend an addition $775,880 to $1,163,820 under the law. Increased processing expenses and jail costs would be between $21,195,600 and $96,086,720.47

With these kinds of increased costs to the taxpayer, SB1070 clearly conflicts with the Tea Party’s demand for smaller government. Yet, the majority of the Tea Party candidates don’t seem to recognize this. The alliance between CCA and FAIR typifies the ironies surrounding SB1070, since FAIR reaches out to Tea Party activists who profess to want to stop illegal immigration; while the CCA’s financial survival is directly linked to its continuation.

“They (Tea Party supporters) don’t know because they don’t listen to us,” Cervantes-Gautschi said. “The argument that this eases overcrowding of prisons is utter nonsense.”48

Beirich called the attempts of Tea Party politicians like Montenegro to reconcile their support of SB 1070 with smaller government “absolute balderdash.” “They haven’t been forced to reconcile it,” she said. “To their base, they play up this red-meat, culture war issue. To the press, they insist they’re just for limited government. They’re supposed to be for liberty, less government intrusion, but what they’re endorsing is the ultimate intrusion.”49

Second Thoughts

During the past few months, various segments of the electorate have expressed concern that perhaps things have gone too far. The economic boycott, first started by the National Council of La Raza, and widely endorsed by other civil liberties organizations after the passage of SB1070, has already cost the state dearly. In the first six months after the bill’s signing, the convention industry lost $141 million.50

A war against immigrants and people of color has been declared in Arizona.

“On top of that, there is all the negative publicity,” said Democratic State Senator Steve Gallardo, who is pushing for a repeal of the law. “It’s going to take years to get out from under this black cloud.” Because Arizona is developing a reputation for racial discrimination, he said, “We’re being called the Mississippi of the Southwest.”51

Some business leaders are pushing back. In March, nearly sixty CEOs signed a letter to legislators opposing Arizona’s most recent round of anti-immigration legislation. The letter referred to the “unintended consequences” of the state’s “going it alone” on the immigration issue. “It’s all based on their own self interests,” Pochoda said. “They lost money. But we’ll take it.”

Nonetheless, FAIR and the private prison industry continue their lobbying efforts. After a lull in support, the dual forces behind SB 1070 are now seeing some success spreading similar legislation to other states. In May, Georgia’s governor signed into law a bill based on the ALEC model legislation.52 In June, Alabama passed an even more stringent anti-immigration law, which Kobach proudly takes credit for writing.53 Missouri and Pennsylvania are debating similar legislation.54

Meanwhile, the FAIR-linked group State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), led by Pennsylvania Republican State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, has been developing model legislation for state challenges to the notion of birthright citizenship, which would prevent children of undocumented immigrants—so-called anchor babies—from automatically receiving U.S. citizenship. The goal is to trigger a U.S. Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment. In March, though, Arizona rejected its anti-birthright-citizenship bill.

Additionally, in May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a different Arizona case that states do have the right in some instances to set immigration law, raising questions about judicial review of SB 1070.55 Opponents had argued that such state and local anti-immigration legislation interfered with the jurisdiction of federal government to enforce immigration.56

Meanwhile, Pearce still claims that the law’s economic impact on the state has been positive. His website says,

Arizona has become a national leader in the restoration of the Rule of Law, with over 100,000 illegal aliens having left the state since 2007, saving over $350 million in K-12, a huge reduction in violent crimes as high as 30% in some cities and the first time in Arizona history a declining population in our Prisons, reduction in social services cost and jobs for Americans, etc.57

His assertions are dubious—the statistics do not take into account the impact of the 2008 collapse of the U.S. economy and the skyrocketing unemployment rate on reducing overall immigration.  The number of undocumented residents nationally has declined eight percent since 1997, according to a Pew Hispanic Center study.58

The Sanctuary Movement

In the early 1980s, the Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, initiated the sanctuary movement, when it sheltered thousands of people fleeing Central American death squads. The Rev. John Fife hung banners outside the church: “This is a Sanctuary for the Oppressed of Central America,” and “Immigration: Do not Profane the Sanctuary of God.”59

The sanctuary movement was based on the religious concept that we are to show our neighbors mercy: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:36-37). SB1070 would target such sanctuaries by prohibiting “any municipal, county or state policy from hampering the ability of any government agency to comply with federal immigration law.”

Misericordia. Perhaps it’s a forgotten concept.

[div class=”foot-notes”]

Endnotes

1 Visit to Surprise Apostolic Church and interview with Rep. Steve Montenegro, Phoenix, Arizona, Sept. 12, 2012

2 State of Arizona Official Canvas http://www.azsos.gov/election/2008/General/Canvass2008GE.pdf

3 Russell Pearce website
http://www.russellpearce.com/

4 Arizona Daily Star, Court Keeps Block on Parts of Arizona Immigration Law, Howard Fischer, April 11, 2010, http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_0a60baf6-6461-11e0-9ead-001cc4c002e0.html

5 Religion Dispatches, http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/2528/arizona_is_the_hispanic_alabama/ Arizona is the Hispanic Alabama, Anthea Butler, May 3, 2010; Anonymous interviews with national Apostolic Assembly Church administrator on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 2010.

6 Arizona Republic, Arizona Outlaws Abortions Based on Race, Sex, Ginger Rough, March 30, 2011, http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2011/03/30/20110330arizona-abortions-race-sex-crime.html

7 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSghdUwNsMo

8 Americas Program, Wall Street and Immigration: Financial Services Giants Have Profited from the Beginning, Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, Feb. 11, 2008, http://enlaceintl.org/news/old-news/wall-street-and-immigration-financial-services-giants-have-profited-fr

9 Ibid

10 Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexican Meltdown: NAFTA, Democracy, and the Peso, Maxwell Cameron, Jan. 1996, http://www.yorku.ca/cerlac/documents/Cameron.pdf

11 Americas Program, Wall Street and Immigration: Financial Services Giants Have Profited from the Beginning, Cervantes-Gautschi,

12 America’s Program, Wall Street and the Criminalization of Immigrants, Peter
Cervantes-Gautschi, June 10, 2010, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/3304

13 FBI Uniform Crime Reports, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/preliminary-crime-in-the-us-2009

14 NPR, Private Prison Leaves Texas Towns in Trouble, John Burnett, March 28, 2010, http://www.npr.org/2011/03/28/134855801/private-prison-promises-leave-texas-towns-in-trouble

15 America’s Program, Wall Street and the Criminalization of Immigrants, Cervantes-Gautschi

16 NPR, Prison Economic Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law, Oct. 28, 2010, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741

17 Ibid.

18 Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, The Man: A Biography of Kris Kobach, Heidi Beirich, Jan. 20, 2011, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/when-mr-kobach-comes-to-town/the-man-a-biography-of-kris-kobach

19 Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, Winter 2007, The Teflon Nativists, Heidi Beirich, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2007/winter/the-teflon-nativists

20 Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, The Communities: The Cost of Nativist Legislation,  Jan. 20, 2011, http://www.splcenter.org/getinformed/publications/when-mr-kobach-comes-to-town/the-man-a-biography-of-kris-kobach

21 Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, The Man: A Biography of Kris Kobach, Heidi Beirich, Jan. 20, 2011,http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/when-mr-kobach-comes-to-town/the-man-a-biography-of-kris-kobach

22 Interview with Witold Walczak, legal director for American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, April 14, 2011

23 Ibid.

24 Wichita Eagle, Commentary: Kobach Needs to Provide Voter Fraud Evidence, March 2, 2011, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/03/02/109710/commentary-kobach-needs-to-produce.html02/109710/commentary-kobach-needs-to-produce.html

25 Arizona Central, Russell Pearce to be next Arizona Senate President, Associated Press, Nov. 3, 2010,http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2010/11/03/20101103arizona-senate-president-pearce.html

26 Counterpunch, Xenophobia in the Desert, Margot Veranes and Adrian Navarro, June 7, 2005, http://www.counterpunch.org/veranes06072005.html

27 FAIR web site http://www.fairus.org/site/News2page=NewsArticle&id=22725&security=1601&news_iv_ctrl=1741

28 Interview with Dan Pochoda, legal director of American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, March 30, 2011

29 Interview with Heidi Beirich, Southern Poverty Law Center, April 5, 2011

30 American Legislative Exchange Council web site http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=About

31 In These Times, Corporate Con Game: How the private prison industry helped shape Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, Beau Hodai, June 21, 2010, http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/6084/corporate_con_game/

32 Ibid.

33 New York Times Op-Ed, Why Arizona Drew a Line, Kris Kobach, April 28, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29/opinion/29kobach.html

34 Inside Alec newsletter, Jan./Feb. 2010 https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.alec.org/am/pdf/InsideALEC
/InsideALEC_Jan-Feb2010.pdf

35 NPR, Prison Economic Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law, Oct. 28, 2010 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741

36 Interview with Frank Sharry, America’s Voices, June 6, 2011

37 Counterpunch, Xenophobia in the Desert, Veranes and Navarro

38 Ibid

39 Interview with Margot Veranes, June 13, 2011

40 Ibid

41 Arizona Central, Russell Pearce to be next Arizona Senate President, AP

42 Sharry interview

43 ABC News, John McCain Border Shift: ‘Complete Danged Fence,’ Russell Goldman, May 11, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/john-mccain-immigration-reversal-complete-danged-fence/story?id=10616090

44 Newsweek, Tea Party Patriots to Convene in Arizona, Jan. 4, 2011, http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/the-gaggle/2011/01/04/tea-party-patriots-to-convene-in-arizona.html

45 Private Prisons Might Gain from New Immigration Law, KPHO TV, 2010, http://www.kpho.com/news/24362212/detail.html

46 Fiscal Analysis of SB 1070, http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/
fiscal/sb1070.doc.pdf

47 American Immigration Council, Implementation Costs of SB 1070 to One Arizona County, April 23, 2010,http://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/newsroom/release/implementation-costs-sb-1070-one-arizona-county

48 Interview with Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, April 5, 2011

49 Beirich interview.

50 Center for American Progress, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Conference Cancellations Due to SB 1070, Marshall Fitz and Angela Maria Kelly,  Nov. 18, 2010, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/11/az_tourism.html

51 Interview with Sen. Steve Gallardo, April 12, 2011

52 Atlanta Progressive News, Prison Lobbyists Help Spread Anti-Immigration Laws to U.S. South, Inter-Press Service, May 26, 2011, http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/news/2011/05/26/(ips)-prison-lobbyists-help-spread-anti-immigrant-laws-to-us-south.html

53 Politico, Swing States Face Immigration Fight, Reid J. Epstein, June 13, 2011, http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0611/56857.html

54 Ibid

55 Los Angeles Times, Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law Targeting Employers, David Savage, May 26, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/26/nation/la-na-court-immigration-ruling-20110526

56 Ibid

57 Russell Pearce website,http://www.russellpearce.com/

58 ABC News, Study: Illegal Immigrant Population Shrinks, Crossings Down Sharply, Devin Dwyer, Sept. 1, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/illegal-immigration-numbers-plummet-2005-study-finds/story?id=11524552

59 Arizona Daily Star, Churches in New Sanctuary Movement, Stephanie Innes, June 13, 2008, http://azstarnet.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/article_fb879efc-91e0-56b8-bd71-60001be5caea.html