Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hearts of Darkness: A journey into the nativist lair.

A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from one of my blogmigas about an upcoming press conference hosted by anti-immigration group, The Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to discuss "the implications of the recent elections and (their) agenda for immigration reform in the 111th Congress."

Figuring that it's always good to know what the opposition is up to, I decided to sign on to the conference call to get a feel for what strategies they were planning for the upcoming congressional session.

Little did I know that listening to the world according to FAIR President, Dan Stein, would be like falling down a rabbit hole where black is white and white is black.

Backed up by media spokesman, Ira Melman, and Executive director, Julie Kirchner, Stein managed in his 45min presentation to rewrite recent history, rehash long-discredited talking points, ignore or misinterpret reams of factual evidence, and flat out fabricate his own alternative reality.

As we've come to expect from far-right ideologues, Stein opened up his presentation with a statement intended to stir up maximum resentment and fear. He spoke at length about the changing political climate due to economic instability and how only strict enforcement and severe limiting of all new immigration would be accepted by the American people.

Against this backdrop of economic uncertainty, he couldn't resist the temptation to blame the nation's entire economic collapse on "illegal aliens" and their allies who managed to force well-meaning bankers into giving them mortgages they had no intention of ever paying:

"We see in areas like the housing crisis, where immigration has played an important role. Organizations worked very hard to encourage Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac to get into financing mortgages for people who had ...didn't even have the right to work in this country.. Didn't even have the right to be in this country the same political interests that argue we should allow people to work in this country who lack work authorization...

This effort to push banks to underwriting mortgages that were...uh.. essentially based on faulty financial analysis ..Why do you want to give a mortgage to someone who doesn’t have a lawful income in this country...and yet many of those same people seem to be getting rewarded in this administration with political don't think the issue is going to go away"

This theory of course has been roundly discredited by both economists and the press.

Even fellow conservatives like UCLA professor Stephen Bainbridge, said that these kind of "ravings ...should be taking place in a padded room in Arkham Asylum not in the public discourse.... the freezing up of the credit markets doesn't have anything to do with either affirmative action or illegal immigration, and people who believe it does are on a par with the conspiracy theorists who think fluoridation is a Chicom plot....."

But more importantly, it's been long rejected by the American public, who know that it was the unmitigated greed and incompetence in both Washington and corporate boardrooms that robbed the public of billions and their financial security.

But the statement did provide insight into Steins twisted worldview, and set the tone for what would be a journey through the FAIR looking glass.

Next, Stein moved on to his interpretation of the election results.

Once again, "contrarian" would be a polite term to describe Stein's take on this past election cycle.

Despite overwhelming evidence that anti-immigrant candidates have had their clocks cleaned in both local and federal elections, he claimed that overwhelmingly, the public supported anti-immigration candidates.

He went on to contradict one of the biggest stories of the election cycle where the unprecedented growth of political power of Latino voters and a huge shift to the Democratic Party played a major role in many key races, claiming that Latinos had no discernible effect on "any election outside of California's Prop8" (nice touch there Dan ...always looking to fuel divisive fires).

Stein of course is border-line delusional in these claims:

Facts on Latino Vote in 2008:
As post-election analysis from pundits moves from discussing how the Latinos turned out in favor of Democrats at historic levels in 2008 to analyzing why this shift occurred, many have recognized that immigration was the driving factor behind Latino mobilization and their break towards Democratic candidates.

The Latino vote comprised 9% of the electorate nationwide in 2008, a figure that totals over 11 million voters. This turnout represents a jump of over 3 million voters since 2004, when 7.6 million Latinos cast ballots, and is approximately double the Latino turnout of 2000. Ominously for Republicans, the Latino vote broke overwhelmingly Democratic in 2008. After supporting Democratic candidate John Kerry by a 56-44% margin against George W. Bush in 2004, Latinos gave Democratic candidate Barack Obama their support at a 67-31% margin against John McCain. As the New York Times showed, Latinos' movement towards Democrats was one of the biggest demographic shifts from 2004 to 2008.

The reason behind this shift, according to political pundits and strategists of both parties, was the Republicans' tarnished brand related to the issue of immigration. As Latino polling expert Sergio Bendixen stated, "the debate over immigration started driving Hispanic voters toward the Democratic party, and the economic black hole clinched it."

Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), stated on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "the very divisive rhetoric of the immigration debate set a very bad tone for our brand as Republicans...there were voices within our party, frankly, which if they continue with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that so much of it was heard, we're going to be relegated to minority status."

Facts on Anti-Immigrant Success at the Polls:
Following (is an analysis) of competitive House and Senate races in 2008 where the Republican candidate tried to use illegal immigration as a wedge issue against a Democratic challenger. The ... analysis focused on the “swing districts” that the Cook Political Report considered in play as of October 2, a month before the elections.

Based on our review, 20 of 22 winners advocated immigration policies beyond enforcement-only. This includes 5 of 5 Senate races and 15 of 17 House races listed in the “toss-up,” “leans Republican,” or “leans Democratic” categories of the Cook Political Report. Clearly, the Republican illegal immigration wedge strategy has proved a spectacular failure in these competitive districts and states.

Until now, the conventional wisdom has been that illegal immigration is a wedge issue that works to mobilize “the base” in the Republican Party, win over swing voters frustrated with the problem, and hurt Democrats who support comprehensive immigration reform. Conventional wisdom has also held that the number of Latino voters who could hold anti-immigrant politicians accountable for their rhetoric is too small to make a difference outside of Democratic strongholds.

This election stands that conventional wisdom on its head. Swing voters chose Democrats overwhelmingly, including many candidates that stood up for a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform than their hard-line opponents. Latino voters turned out in record numbers and fled the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Republican Party in droves. Their participation in the 2008 elections contributed to Senator Obama’s wins in key battleground states like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida, and also helped Democrats win contested House and Senate races in these states and more. Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant forces that have all but hijacked the Republican Party proved to be inconsequential at best, except for their role in potentially driving the GOP into the political wilderness


At this point Stein turned the discussion over to Julie Kirchner for further analysis....or as any rational person would call it... grasping at straws.

Kirchner, following Steins lead, tried to prove his claim that anti-immigrant rhetoric actually won many elections for strong restrictionist candidates.

Her examples to prove this undeniable fact:

  • Incumbent, Sen. Jeff Sessions managed to win his run-off election in one of the most Republican states in the union.

  • Incumbent Sen. John Cornyn managed to beat a weak opponent in Texas

  • Rep. Duncan Hunter JR was able to capture his father's seat in California's most right-wing district

  • Incumbent, Rep. Brian Bilbray managed to eek out a five point win in a +5 Republican district.

This is hardly an overwhelming display of anti-immigrant power given the devastating loses the anti-immigrant caucus has suffered in the last three cycles.

Then there was Kirchner's unique analysis of the failed attempt by Hazzelton mayor, Lou Barletta, to take Pennsylvania's 11th district.

A restritionist poster boy, who was the darling of the anti-immigrant movement, Barletta received hours of free air-time from blowhards like Lou Dobbs yet still came up short. But according to Kirchner, his loss can be attributed to the fact that the Democrats threw all their heavy guns at the hometown favorite.

She claimed it took the combined efforts of Barack Obama, and both Clintons to defeat Barletta:

"They pulled out all the stops. It took two Presidents and a future Secretary of State to beat Barletta." Said Kirchner.

But of course she failed to mention that John McCain, Cindy McCain, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani all made numerous appearances in Barletta's district.

As a key presidential battleground, both parties spent enormous resources trying to win it.....none of which had anything to do with Barletta...whose own party pretty much ignored him.

But then again, in FAIR's alternative universe....anything is possible.

Eventually, Stein and friends finally got around the meat of their presentation....their strategic plan for the coming Congressional session. .. which seemed to consist of one thing ...renewing the government's E-Verify employee verification system.

No mention was made of any new legislation or initiatives ... just E-Verify, which Stein characterized as the "first battle of the new administration"

The renewal of the controversial system, which requires the use the Social Security Administration's error-ridden database, that contains 17mil faulty entries, as a method to verify employment eligibility for millions of workers, has stalled out in the Senate and will expire in March of 2009. Stein, looking to expand its use through legislation like last years STRIVE Act, sees the renewal as key towards forwarding his enforcement-only immigration policies.

But Steins wishful thinking doesn't change the fact that the E-verify system is so unreliable that it's opposed by employers and unions alike and the veracity of the database has been challenged successfully in federal court.

Errors in the database that E-Verify checks to determine work authorization status impact millions.

  • 4.1%: error rate in the SSA database

  • 17.8 million: number of discrepancies in the SSA database

  • 12.7 million: number of database discrepancies pertaining to native-born U.S. citizens

  • 1 in 25: number of new hires that would receive a tentative nonconfirmation based on error rates

  • 55 million: approximate number of new hires per year in the U.S.

  • 11,000: number of workers per day who would be flagged as ineligible for employment if E-Verify were mandatory for all employers

  • 25: workers per work day per congressional district who would be flagged as ineligible for employment if the Shuler or Johnson bill passed, making E-Verify mandatory for all employers

But outside of that, Stein seemed mostly content to spend the next four years playing defense, doing his best to make sure that no actual reform gets enacted.

"We're going to be extremely vocal if we see at a time when hundred of thousands or millions of Americans are losing their jobs the administration is pushing legislation that’s going to dramatically increase labor completion...

We would anticipate that certainly house republicans are going to be more vocal on the restrictionist side ..ah.. because .. they were reined in first by the Bush folks and then by McCain folks... "

Lastly, he touched upon workplace enforcement. ...and once again wandering off into realm of the ridiculous ...making up his own facts and reality:

"In our view this would be a very divisive move to simply end workplace enforcement when the President elect said that enforcement and employer sanctions were one of the cornerstones of his reform policies,,,

There is evidence, and I think its pretty substantial, that where the meatpacking operations have taken place for example, lawfully admitted immigrants, refugees, ...refugees in need, have stepped forward to take these jobs. Wages have gone up, bargaining leverage and unionization rates have increased ,,, and this is what the American dream has always been about, and so we will very vigorously denounce that move if that’s something he's going to do"

I guess Stein must be talking about Postville Iowa, where the plant has been shut down and all the workers left jobless...including the "refugees in need" that Agriprocessors flew in from the island nation of Palau.

Or maybe it was it was Pilgrims Pride that just filed for bankruptcy after it's plants in five states were raided last April.

Or was it the Smithfield, where they still used prison labor to fill the ranks of missing workers

Or Crider, where they were busing in felons on probation from a state prison and residents of a homeless mission from nearby Macon, and later tried to bring in Laotian Hmong immigrant workers and their families from Minnesota and Wisconsin to fill jobs no locals would take.

Yeah...these raids have created a workers paradise according Stein....but then again he seems to live in a reality of his own making.

Unfortunately, he has enough money and a big enough megaphone to try to make others believe in his reality also.

DIGG this story


La Cindy said...

?Why do you want to give a mortgage to someone who doesn’t have a lawful income in this country…and yet many of those same people seem to be getting rewarded in this administration with political appointments"

Is he saying that some of Obama's apointees are illegal aliens?

Anonymous said...

This was a top quality post, Duke; well researched, well presented, and well reported. Thanks.

Duke Reed said...

Thanks so much.

It was actually a fun post to write.

Stein and crew are so ridiculously out of touch, the post practically wrote itself...he's actually a rich source of comedy ...ironically, he just doesn't realize it.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Duke, Thanks!

And have you seen NumbersUSA recent plea for funds?

Where they've changed their position to NO IMMIGRATION?

Keep up the good work mano!

Anonymous said...

Duke, this is my post on Daily Kos to you:

This issue is about the US nation and employers. (0+ / 0-)
Duke1676, you bring up a really good point. Where do EEO people stand on CIR?
This is how I'll answer:

the H-1b & other employer visa programs allow employers to bypass EEO and create performance mythologies about the US workforce - comprised of US citizens and green card holders. Bright Future Jobs is concentrating on this. It's not about immigration.

When there is an amnesty, hundreds of thousands of undocumented adults will pay dearly for green cards. And they will be horrified to realize that they will be legally bypassed for top dollar, white collar jobs in their new country. BFJ is here to fight for their right to have employers consider them - EEO - for their open positions.

No nation can remain strong when laws allow employers to keep their eyes shut to local talent.

Your posts are very thoughtful. We need to work together to restore the beauty of American opportunity.

I salute you.

Now to address your issue directly:

I have come to realize that all nations have the right to discriminate. I am old enough to remeber the struggle to get employers to consider black talent and also remember the stuggle to consider female talent.

Sadly, the H-1b part of immigration law is the re-establishment of the right of employers to never consider the US workforce for their job openings.

This has nothing to do this immigration. The H-1b law was designed by American lobbyists, passed by an American Congress, for American and foreign employers. It is about the re-establishment of employer discrimination (Durbin, Grassley & Sanders get this.)

We position ourselves amongst the American public to expose this legal discrimination, with full knowlege that US law can be constructed to bypass US talent, as we have done for hundreds of years.

The American public must decide for themselves if this legal employment discrimination will stand, or they will overturn this. It is really in their (our) hands.

I have no idea how this will play out. Americans are caught in the H-1b trap; they may feel that it is in their best interests to bypass local talent, as employers so honestly think is the best thing to do.

Duke, we've been there before. We are now here again. I undestand that this is an issue that immigration activists must decide for themselves.

Some immigration activists have decided that expanding legal discrimination is a small price to pay for CIR. I understand their viewpoint.

Whatever happens with CIR, BFJ will be around to bust the performance mythology built around legal discrimination and we are ready to put voice to the citizens and green card holders who will be bypassed by employer programs that create a tethered, privatized company workforce that displaces the US workforce.

BTW, we work with H-1bs on visa abuses, but that's for another email!

Keep up the good work!

Donna Conroy

Anonymous said...

Duke, I wanted to respond to your comment about joining the broader CIR.

First, thanks for the invite! We are a bit lonely, working on this issue, so I'm pleased with the offer.

BFJ is not aligned with the right. You'd be suprised to know that most techies have no real position on immigration. But because the right includes the employer visa issue, they do find themselves with them. That's why we formed BFJ - to create an organization that addresses the employer bypass, without aligning with organizations that really don't reflect where techies are really at.

The vocal anti-H-1b folks tend to align with anti-immigration groups, but most techies can't get behind these folks. I think this is why techies shy away from these voices - they really don't represent them.

Immigration progressives are all over the map on the employer visa programs - some support them, others are against them, and other are cautious. I know personally of several progressive activists that are willing to accept this bypass in order to establish a path to citizenship.

BFJ can only give voice to the impact of employer's legal ability to bypass the US workforce.

Donna Conroy

Anonymous said...

The issues that have turned voters off from the Republican Party, and Republican candidates, have to do largely with Iraq and foreign policy, as well as the economy, and the unpopularity of the Bush administration.

Even many supporters of illegal immigration have acknowledged that, in elections, those opposing their position do have advantages, with respect to vote-garnering.

Furthermore, the immigration issue is not about "the right" vs. "the left" - there are deep cleavages on each side of the ideological spectrum, on this issue, with conservatives and liberals on each side.

As I've said before, there are many aspects of immigration reduction that are consistent with left-wing beliefs, values, and goals. Liberals have long been at the forefront of opposing illegal immigration, as well as reducing immigration levels overall, and some continue to do so.

As both liberals and conservatives pointed out, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee could have defeated President Bush in the last election, if he had used the immigration issue. John McCain was even weaker than Bush on this matter however, and the "Republican" from Arizona, praised by supporters of illegal immigration, did miserably.

The last time a Democrat President won re-election, he took a stance in favor of stopping illegal immigration, and reducing legal immigration as well [in accordance with the recommendations of civil rights leader Barbara Jordan (D-TX).]

With respect to the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), this is widely-regarded as a mainstream organization, focused on matters such as workers' rights, the environment, and sustainability. Among those who have served on FAIR's Advisory Board include left-wing, anti-war icon Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), who was the co-sponsor of the 1965 bill that greatly increased immigration, environmentalist leader Paul Ehrlich and his wife (The Population Bomb), PBS anchor Bonnie Erbe, and Sierra Club leader (the recently-deceased) Dr. Alan Kuper).

This issue is not about left vs. right, or about "nativism" - It is about better the lives of all Americans (including immigrants), including blue-collar workers and minority-Americans, in opposition to Big Business and corporate greed, and about protecting the environment through the moral means of stewardship and conservation, rather than through immoral means.