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Ugly Opposition to Immigration Reform Comes Back to Capitol Hill | The Nation

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George Zornick

George Zornick

Action and dysfunction in the Beltway swamp. E-mail tips to george@thenation.com

Ugly Opposition to Immigration Reform Comes Back to Capitol Hill


People opposed to immigration legislation currently in Congress gather at a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 15, 2013.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

If there’s one media failing in the immigration debate, it is that many mainstream reporters hedge around the fact that at least some conservative opposition to the bill is based in cultural and even racial animus towards Hispanics.

It’s not the only reason people oppose immigration reform. There are many good reasons, and many bad reasons that have nothing to do with race. But a non-trivial portion of conservative opposition reform is couched in those terms, particularly among the activist crowd organizing against the bill.

It’s ugly, but it happens to be true. One could forgive mainstream reporters for largely dancing around this fact—if these activists didn’t regularly plan large rallies in the shadow of the Capitol building, and then say a bunch of plainly racist and nativist things into a microphone.

Such was the case Monday, where several hundred people gathered in Upper Senate Park to denounce immigration reform as a job-killer. As ThinkProgress noted, a white nationalist named John Tanton organized the rally; he is famous for works such as “The Case for Passive Case Eugenics” and saying that black Americans are a “retrograde species of humanity.”

So, the rally went about as one would expect. Ken Crow, who used to be president of Tea Party of America until he bungled logistics of a Sarah Palin speech and is now affiliated with Tea Party Community, got up and started talking about “well-bred Americans.”

Here is some video of what followed, in which he made a straightforward case for racial purity. (Apologies for the quality; I didn’t anticipate something that crazy to about be said and so I wasn’t well-positioned. But the audio should be clear.)

The transcript:

From those incredible blood lines of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and John Smith. And all these great Americans, Martin Luther King. These great Americans who built this country. You came from them. And the unique thing about being from that part of the world, when you learn about breeding, you learn that you cannot breed Secretariat to a donkey and expect to win the Kentucky Derby. You guys have incredible DNA and don’t forget it.

At minimum, Crow was making a crude nativist argument that people from other cultures have the heritage of a donkey, compared to our race-horse DNA. And, although he worked in a Martin Luther King reference, the “breeding” talk made it pretty tempting to see this in racial terms as well. (Ironically, this rally was held in conjunction with the Black Leadership Alliance, a black pseudo-advocacy group created by Tanton. The crowd was roughly one-third black, and was pretty quiet during all the breeding talk.)

Not only was this said in the presence of hundreds of people on Capitol Hill, but many important Republican politicians were present. Senator Jeff Sessions, who helped lead the opposition to the immigration bill in the Senate, was directly behind me, glad-handing attendees, as I shot this video. Congressman Steve King, who is taking up Session’s mantle in the House, was also there. Both men spoke (Sessions is the keynote), and Senator Ted Cruz is also on the roster. The rally was promoted by major conservative media figures like Laura Ingraham.

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In other words, the rally and its place on the political landscape is impossible to ignore. Last month, another hard-right rally featured Representative Michele Bachmann holding up a white baby and talking about the “future of America”—not quite as explicit, but mainly a difference in degree.

There’s no reason for reporters not to clearly explain what these speakers were saying, and be honest about why they oppose immigration reform.

This is what happens when you infiltrate an immigration detention center.

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