“Progressive” Peddlers of Fear 2.0

Written by on March 31, 2009 in Economics, Immigration 101, Reform with 2 Comments

Photo by Mike Galvin.

This just in: “Immigrants are breathing all our American air,” or so the new anti-immigrant front group, Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), would have you believe. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not too far off from the laundry list of anti-immigrant topics posing as economic, environmental and social justice issues on PFIR’s website.

In a recent post on Imagine2050, Center for New Community’s National Field Director Eric Ward lambastes PFIR for being yet “another addition to a growing list of anti-immigrant groups being set up under the Tanton Network to give the illusion that the anti-immigrant movement is broader than it really is.”

The Tanton Network, named after founder and white nationalist John Tanton, includes misnomers such as the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Social Contract Press, and the Coalition for the Future American Worker—with cohorts at NumbersUSA and now the Progressives for Immigration Reform. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has named many of these as “hate groups” in their report, The Nativist Lobby.

PFIR’s anti-immigrant rhetoric isn’t anything the nativist lobby hasn’t said before—that immigrants are to blame for America’s failing infrastructure, economic recession, crime, job-stealing, terrorism and my personal favorite, global warming—which includes scapegoating immigrants for extreme weather, rising sea levels, changing ecosystems, melting glaciers, and dying polar bears—except this time they’ve slapped a “progressive” label on it, which would be almost laughable if A) their monikers didn’t sound vaguely legitimate and B) the general public wasn’t so eager to swallow these factually inaccurate and fear-based arguments. Eric Ward warns:

As the debate surrounding immigration reignites, progressives should remain vigilant to wolves in sheep’s clothing attempting to sell us bigotry wrapped as economic and social justice. Progressives have much more in common with emerging immigrant and refugee communities than with white supremacy disguised as mere anti-immigrant hysteria.

Most people define “progressive” as a position that strives for change, progress and reform. “Progressive” policies include rational, comprehensive and fair solutions to issues such as immigration—like a path to citizenship for 12 million people which progresses both native-born and immigrant alike.  In fact, comprehensive reform is the very solution proposed by the Democratic Party’s progressive platform.

Ultimately, it sounds like the nativist lobby’s “progressive” is a round-about way of saying “deport them all.” Blaming all of America’s woes on immigrants and labeling it “progressive” just doesn’t make any sense. PFIR, as well as others in the network, might “progress” America’s agenda more if they spent more time cultivating real and sensible solutions to our immigration problems instead of misleading people with pro-immigrant names and anti-immigrant agendas.



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  • Ana M.


    There’s a difference between calling for rational levels of immigration and scapegoating immigrants for our country’s environmental, infrastructural, and economic problems in a deceptive attempt to appeal to the progressive base. That’s exactly what “Progressives for Immigration Reform” are trying to do (along with other groups like Californians for Population Stabilization).

    As Chairman of the College Republicans, you aren’t exactly a knowledgeable spokesman for the U.S. progressive movement and you clearly fail to understand that while there may be disagreement on what desired levels of immigration should be, progressives agree that immigration is a boon for our nation as a whole.

    The Democratic Party: America has always been a nation of immigrants. Over the years, millions of people have come here in the hope that in America, you can make it if you try. Each successive wave of immigrants has contributed to our country’s rich culture, economy and spirit. Like the immigrants that came before them, today’s immigrants will shape their own destinies and enrich our country…We must work together to pass immigration reform in a way that unites this country, not in a way that divides us by playing on our worst instincts and fears.

    The Green Party: While it would be ideal to erase borders between countries, that would be impractical without reciprocity between nations. We seek that reciprocity as a practical goal. While we recognize that there must be some controls on immigration, if only for the sake of national security, the Green Party would endorse a friendlier (less intimidating) attitude towards immigration in all nations…We oppose those who seek to divide us for political gain by raising ethnic and racial hatreds, and by blaming immigrants for social and economic problems. *AHEM*

    The Center for American Progress: To create a robust, modern immigration system worthy of our country we must: Accept increased labor mobility; Incorporate robust enforcement and safeguards; Protect U.S. workers; Increase and diversify legal immigration; Resolve the status of the undocumented; Foster an inclusive American identity

    “Progressives” for Immigration Reform however, purports a position that is completely antithetical to leading progressive institutions. They’re only politicizing and exploiting progressive issues (climate change, population growth) in order to feed their xenophobic agenda.

    We need real, rational solutions and leadership on progressive issues, not scapegoats and front groups.

  • Mia

    Interesting from both sides. Neither addresses how to “manage” the individuals who are currently in the country as “uninspected” or “undocumented.” Comprehensive immigration reform ideally would mean having a system that balanced enforcement with practical solutions for people “unlawfully” present within our borders. ICE raids have been proven to be much less than ideal on several fronts. Nor is it economically feasible to “round up all the illegals” and send them all back where they come from.

    They AREN’T all from South of the Border or Mexico, and includes visa overstays. There is NOTHING in place in the current immigration system for a logical remediation of the current problem, and 287(g) and other “strong arm” tactics in the current immigration laws makes solving the problem impossible.

    Even with “comprehensive” immigration reform, without ammendments to the current law, we will have a stratification of who can pay a fine to get in line, and who must leave. Background checks to include removal for felonies only? Removal for misdemeanors, and let the uninspected at the border folks stay?

    The way our system is laid out right now, our country will continue to have a secondary invisible resident class, and a concurrent black economy which is not subject to the oversight of federal or local law (think the immigration issue doule whammy of illegal immigrants driving all over this country without licenses).