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” and have vowed 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. This video by David Lane of DailySoCal.com shows protesters blocking off the road for three buses carrying undocumented women and children.
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: ALIPAC, 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.
Mark Potok is one of the country’s leading experts on the world of extremism and serves as the editor-in-chief of the SPLC’s award-winning, quarterly journal, the Intelligence Report, its Hatewatch blog, and its investigative reports. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Mark has appeared on numerous television news programs and is quoted regularly by journalists and scholars in both the United States and abroad. In addition, he has testified before the U.S. Senate, the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights and in other venues. Before joining the SPLC staff in 1997, Mark spent 20 years as an award-winning journalist at major newspapers, including USA Today, the Dallas Times Herald and The Miami Herald. While at USA Today, he covered the 1993 Waco siege, the rise of militias, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the trial of Timothy McVeigh.
James Neighbors was born on July 12, 1967 in Tacoma, Washington (Fort Lewis), traveled early in his life, before settling in the Norman, Oklahoma area in 1977. James came upon the inspiration for Overpasses for America when he was drawn to an article online about a protest calling for the impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama. With his knowledge of business from past job experience, his understanding of the plight of the working poor (having experienced this himself), Neighbors created the Facebook movement to gather the numbers of patriotic Americans who shared the same hope for a revived nation.
Cover photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
Camilo Vargas went from his native Colombia to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He joined Latino USA after a fellowship with Univision Noticias and Univision’s Investigative Unit. Before coming to the US, Camilo was a researcher for the Universidad de los Andes and the Colombian government, specializing in armed conflict and US-Latin America relations. He holds a BA and an MA in international relations from Universidad de los Andes in Bogota and an MS from Columbia’s Journalism School. He’s reported on the drug war, national politics, and same-sex salsa.