The Blog

Aug 2, 2015, 4:12
Air War: The Anti-Immigrant Establishment’s Battle Plan

Air War: The Anti-Immigrant Establishment’s Battle Plan


Conventional wisdom suggests there are two distinct elements of modern campaigns: the “ground game,” the ability of campaigns to organize and mobilize supporters to get out and engage in the fight; and the “air war,” the money poured into advertising and other passive means of persuading voters to support a campaign. Finding the elusive balance between the two is said to be the key to winning.

In this latest round in battle over comprehensive immigration reform, the anti-immigrant establishment has largely conceded the ground game. One reason: their base of support evaporated.

Seattle Tea Party Patriots Protesting Immigration Reform and the IRS (IREHR)

Seattle Tea Partiers Protest the IRS, Immigration


On May 21, Seattle-area Tea Party Patriots heeded the call of the national office in Atlanta and turned out for a hastily arranged protest against the Internal Revenue Service. Despite grey skies and the group sending to members a notice with the wrong location, twenty-two Tea Partiers showed up outside the Federal Building on Second Avenue in downtown Seattle at noon.  They waved signs at passing cars and posed for the television news crews on the scene.

Similar Tea Party rallies against the IRS took place in dozens of cities around the country, including Cincinnati, Louisville, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Providence, and several other cities.

The Seattle group of Tea Partiers took over a spot that has been used continually by local peace activists to campaign against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Tea Party occupation of the peace demonstration spot created a sharp sidewalk juxtaposition. Tea Partiers loudly yelled “Revolution!” and “Abolish the IRS!” while nearby peace activists solemnly chimed a bell one time for each name of a soldier killed in combat read aloud. 

Talking points prepared by the faction’s national office encouraged signs at the rally tried to conflate the IRS issue with the Tea Party attack on immigration reform.  As a result, one sign claimed, “Amnesty + ObamaCare = Bankruptcy,” while another read, “ObamAmnesty. Adios Trust Fund.”

The bright red and yellow anti-immigrant sign “Keep it Legal” was held by a Craig Keller, a leader of the nativist group, Respect Washington. In addition to protesting the IRS, Keller was also there to collect signatures for I-1277, a 2013 anti-immigrant initiative which fuses Voter ID, E-Verify and other nativist favorites. Anti-immigrant initiatives have been filed in Washington going back to 2006, but none have gathered the requisite number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. Signatures for I-1277 are due July 1.

The same day as the street protest, Keller and two other nativist colleagues visited the Seattle offices of Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.  They were part of the “Remember 1986” Coalition rallies against “amnesty” sponsored by NumbersUSA, the national nativist group.  Keller claimed he delivered copies of 5800 NumbersUSA petitions to aides of the two Washington Senators.

The nativist group Respect Washington is also led by Martin Ringhofer, in addition to Keller.  Ringhofer, from Soap Lake, Washington, was not at the Seattle Tea Party protest. But his anti-immigrant activism goes back to 2006, when he formed the group Protect Washington Now, which tried but failed to get a clone of Arizona’s Proposition 200 on the ballot in Washington.

Ringhofer has his own history of voter suppression. In 2005, he asked Washington state election officials to review voting credentials of voters in King, Spokane, Grant, Adams, Yakima and five other counties, because their names "appear to be from outside the United States." Ringhofer targeted voters with names that were Hispanic, Asian, Russian and Ukrainian.  He claimed that "The challenge of voters who may not be citizens is based on listing individuals whose first, middle and last name have no basis in the English language." Ringhofer’s foreign sounding name method for targeting voters for disqualification is similar to the 2011 efforts of the voter suppression group, the North Carolina Voter Integrity Project.

When not singling out voters with foreign sounding names, or coming up new ballot measures, Ringhofer has been busy suing for the release of “non-juror information” from King County and the other 38 Washington counties.  He has claimed that the attributes that disqualify a person from serving on a jury likely mean they shouldn’t legally be able to vote in the state either. However, court administrators and the Secretary of State’s Office have indicated that such juror information is not a public record, nor is it kept on hand for more than the period a person is ordered to serve jury duty. Ringhofer has been assisted in the lawsuit by the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s Immigration Reform Law Institute.

This cluster of anti-immigrant activists and Tea Partiers are sure to try and continue their campaign through the summer and fall, or until the policy issues are resolved. 

Across the country, people took to the streets on May 1, 2013 to support comprehensive immigration reform.

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.

Notables at CPAC 2013. Top (left to right): Jenny Beth Martin, Sarah Palin, Richard Mack. Bottom (left to right): Bill Norton, Rep. Steve King, Panel of the "Uninvited".

Inside CPAC 2013: Bigotry Gone Wild


In the vast Potomac Ballroom of the Gaylord hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held March 14-16, started as a well-choreographed effort to present a softer, more diverse, conservative movement. Beyond the main hall, however, the carefully crafted façade melted away. In the many conference rooms that the Tea Party dominated, events featured blatant racism, homophobia, sexism, and Islamophobia. Despite the efforts of organizers to sweep it all under the rug, this year’s CPAC showed a conservative movement riddled with white nationalists, and others long a pillar of the farthest edge of the far right.  The conservative sense of white dispossession at the core of this new conservative movement, bore little resemblance to the high and mighty elites of the Reagan and Bush years.

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

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.

Video: Judson Phillips Interviews Roy Beck of NumbersUSA at CPAC

Video: Judson Phillips Interviews Roy Beck of NumbersUSA at CPAC


In yet another sign of the converging Tea Party and nativist interests we detailed in Beyond FAIR: The Decline of the Established Anti-Immigrant Organizations and the Rise of Tea Party Nativism, Tea Party Nation leader Judson Phillips caught up with NumbersUSA head Roy Beck for an interview at the 2012 CPAC Convention. Phillips used the interview to re-introduce NumbersUSA to his Tea Party Nation supporters. The two were familiar with one another from when Beck appeared at the 2010 Tea Party Nation Convention in Nashville

Beyond FAIR

Beyond FAIR


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.

Download a printable version of the Beyond FAIR report

 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.

NumbersUSA head Roy Beck at the Tea Party Nation Convention

Nativists Shift Target to Documented Immigrants


NumbersUSA announced that they will air television ads during the next GOP presidential candidate debate that advocate further restrictions on the level of documented (so called "legal") immigrants. As IREHR recently noted, some national nativist groups appear to be changing course, and preparing to launch a campaign to restrict documented immigration. If this shift in nativist strategy fully materializes, it is likely to alter the terms of discussion by policymakers and the public.