by Camilo Vargas & Sarah Gonzalez
August 1, 2014
The spike in children coming to the US border has been called a “border crisis” by the media. Protests have sprung up around the country in response to this crisis. Some protesters call it “a border surge of illegal immigrants” while the more extreme groups call it “an invasion” & vow to do something about it.
The facts: More than 57,000 children fleeing violence and endemic poverty from Central America have been apprehended at the border. They are then taken to detention facilities and shelters across the country, and over 30,000 have been released to relatives, sponsors or parents, mostly in California, Florida, New York and Texas.
But the communities where the children and families would be held have erupted in a backlash that has mixed communities with anti-immigration activists, hate groups, and in some cases, militias or militia-type groups.
The first incident was in Murrieta, California, on July 1st, after the mayor made it official that Central American undocumented immigrants would be detained in a facility in the community. A video by David Lane of DailySoCal.com shows protesters blocking off the road for three buses carrying undocumented women and children.
Since then, other protests have taken a turn for the extreme, with armed protesters rallying in Michigan, Virginia, Maryland and throughout the east coast.
There have also been reports of militias actively patrolling the border and militia-type groups mobilizing by the dozens to the border, an initiative the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Patrol has discouraged.
According to Mark Potok, a specialist on hate groups and extremism at the Southern Poverty Law Center, three groups are behind the more coordinated efforts by AIPAC, Overpasses For America, and the social media campaign #MakeThemListen, They called for a national protest on July 18th and 19th, 2014, in 300 cities across the US. According to Potok, the turnout to the rallies was low, with just 40 making it out to a New York City protest in front of the United Nations.
But the language has been virulent, and the protests called to picket locations like the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, Calif., where relief efforts for the children were coordinated, or the Peppersound Campground in Oracle, Az, where child refugees would potentially be held. The organizers are calling for more protests in early August, in what they call a sustained effort to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants to the country.
Mark Potok highlighted the role of Fox News in fueling the backlash against efforts to house immigrants. Potok also mentioned the role nativist organizations like the Federation for American Immigration – FAIR, Numbers USA and the Center for Immigration Studies, whose senior policy analyst Stephen Steinlight, said of Obama on his immigration policies: “I would think being hung, drawn and quartered is probably too good for him.”
Potok’s comments echo calls by the Anti Defamation League for civility in debate around the children refugees and migrants. The ADL specifically calls out comments by conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who asked who would take the blame if “disease is spread across the country” because “the government spreads the illegal immigrants across the country.” The ADL also reprimanded Rep. Rich Nugent (R.-FL) for claiming that “a lot of these children…quote un-quote…they’re gang members. They’re gang affiliated.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled ALIPAC and FAIR as hate-groups, a label that William Gheen, ALIPAC’s director, rejected in a letter earlier this year. Gheen also declined to Latino USA’s request for an interview, with the following statement:
ALIPAC is a peaceful racially inclusive organization and we do not support media or groups designed to divide Americans among racial lines. We reserve our interviews for media designed for Americans of all races and ethnicities only and therefor must decline to interview with NPR Latino USA. We would reject any similar request from any groups or media that were focused on blacks only or whites only or anyone called ‘Caucasian USA’. So we object on our principles opposing racism and we have found that we almost never get a fair report on our positions from employees or companies that owe their incomes to continued or accelerated illegal immigration into America from Latin American nations. Thank you for inquiring.
Fox News has not answered our request for comment. FAIR replied saying Potok’s opinion was not qualified since the Southern Poverty Law Center has no government affiliation.
James Neighbors, from Overpasses for America, did agree to an interview with Maria Hinojosa. We have included the entire interview in the SoundCloud file below the segment.