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African-American Coalition Provides Cover to Nativist Lobby

By Hatewatch Staff on July 18, 2013 - 10:06 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Extremist Propaganda

The anti-immigrant lobby has long enjoyed influence in Washington but in recent years has been forced to defend itself against charges that it represents the narrow interests of white nationalists who fear the “browning” of America.

So it may have surprised some when a new coalition of African-American activists, called the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA), announced its opposition to legislation that could provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Latino immigrants.

In a June 3 letter to members of Congress, BALA claimed the proposed bill “will harm black American workers more than any other group” because “[m]ass immigration and amnesty puts African Americans from all walks of life out of work and suppresses wages, causing them to compete with aliens willing to work in poorer working conditions for cheaper pay.”

What BALA did not say in that letter — or during a press conference in April when it called itself the African American Leadership Council — was anything about its provenance. There’s a good reason for that. It turns out that BALA is simply the latest front group for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the flagship of a network of anti-immigrant organizations formed by the white nationalist John Tanton.

When it first emerged in April, BALA was openly sponsored by another FAIR front called Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), purportedly an organization concerned about the environmental impact of immigration. As late as June, the media spokesperson and phone number listed on BALA’s press releases were associated with PFIR.

BALA is not the first African-American front group formed by FAIR. In 2006, an organization called Choose Black America (CBA), appeared on the scene. Its black “members” were selected, flown to a press conference in Washington and lodged there by FAIR. The group’s spokesman was a white FAIR official.

Though CBA fell apart soon after its debut, the Tanton network’s dream of appearing to represent a rainbow coalition did not die with it. In 2011, FAIR briefly sponsored Blacks for Equal Rights Coalition, a Los Angeles-based anti-immigration organization that has been celebrated by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens.

BALA’s members include a familiar cast of Tanton allies, notable among them Leah Durant, an African-American lawyer who is also PFIR’s executive director. Durant, who once worked for FAIR’s legal arm, also spoke at a press conference held to announce the creation of CBA.

Durant is not the only former CBA member on BALA’s roster. Others are Jesse Lee Peterson, an African-America pastor who once thanked God for slavery, and Frank Morris, who is sometimes described as BALA’s leader. Morris, a veteran anti-immigration activist with a doctorate in political science from M.I.T., is also a board member at both FAIR and the Tanton-affiliated Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). T. Willard Fair, also a BALA member, sits with Morris on the CIS board.

Fair, who has a respectable history of advocating for African Americans, has worked with Tanton-linked front groups before. In 2007, he lent his face to an anti-immigration ad campaign by the Coalition for the Future American Worker, a purportedly pro-labor organization whose constituent members included not a single union but did include an alphabet soup of nativist groups founded and/or funded by Tanton’s network.

BALA’s other members include Vernon Robinson, a North Carolina politician who once accused President Obama of subscribing to “loony, vile, anti-America, anti-Whitey, anti-Semitic, pro-reparations, black liberation theology”; pundit Leo Alexander, who claims black people were better off under Jim Crow; Charles Butler, a conservative Chicago radio host and gun rights activist; and Kevin Jackson, executive director of The Black Sphere, a black conservative group that claims to desire an end to “identity politics.”

  • Aron

    Sam, care to provide any evidence for that absurd claim?

  • Sam Molloy

    Because, Aadilia, they commit most of the crimes. This is not to say the system could not be improved. Violent crimes with specific victims are in my mind very different than simple drug possession, small time dope dealing and failure to pay child support and parking tickets.

  • aadila

    Sam if our judicial system works pretty well — as you claim — why is the high-school-to-prison pipeline populated principally by African Americans and Hispanic inmates, the same people Tanton wishes to pit one against the other?

    Agreed, compassion does not imply self blame. It implies knowing the victims of the right wing war on the prison population could be you.

  • Erika

    Dan, don’t be silly – if the right wing ultimately has their way and brings back the Gilded Age there would be no need to bring in illegal immigrants because there would be plenty of native born Americans willing to work for barely subsidiance wages in jobs that would have a strong chance of killing you. Some of them even openly call for abolishing education and bringing back child labor. Remember also that they ultimately want to ban women from being able to work outside of the home with the possible exception of being a prostitute (which if you recall prostitution used to be called “white slavery” and would still be “illegal” to assure exploitation of the victims but like in the Gilded Age the corrupt police forces would be bribed and look the other way).

    There is no need for “illegal” immigration when its perfectly legal to exploit everyone.

  • Erika

    Sam, many people who were serving time were drug addicts who were “selling crack” or “meth” to maintain their addiction. Others just happened to engage in the same sort of behavior which millions of others engage in but happened to be the wrong race and income level. some people in prison committed no crime – and happened to be the wrong race at the wrong place and time. Yes, DNA evidence has lessened the dependence on eye witness testimony (which turns out to be extremely inaccurate) but there are still many people (and guess what race they tend to be) who are still in prison wrongly convicted of rape or robbery based upon the victim picking the wrong guy. In these older cases there is often no DNA evidence available. Others are serving draconian sentences for minor property crimes – like the guy i saw get sentenced to 4 years in prison for stealing a bag of candy worth $1 – and many of them were also drug addicts. Others have serious mental illnesses and received no treatment on the outside.

    rather than condemning prisoners or seeing them as less than human we as society should say “there but for the Grace of God go i” – or whatever the athiest equivilent of it is. in my case, i know that is true – as i’ve said before, i was a very bad girl when i was in high school – had i been poor and/or black and likely a male (or even less attractive – one of the lesser known prejudices of our male dominated justice system is that it favors attractive girls and women) i may well have ended up on the school to prison pipeline myself (i definitely would have ended up in juvenile detention). instead, i wasn’t even arrested and i’m now an attorney – and even though i worked in a public defenders office for a very brief time, i still was able to see the class bias, racism and even sexism (although contrary to what the men’s rights bozos will tell you, the real sexism comes from the male dominated judicial system favoring young attractive female defendants – and that is the one form of prejudice that goes across racial and class lines) still present in this system.

  • Linnea

    Why am I not surprised by this? FAIR (what an oxymoronic name!) has proved to be quite the slippery bunch. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them.

  • Sam Molloy

    Aadila, it is not compassion to blame yourself for other people breaking the law and serving time. It is sick. Compare them to the immigrants that travel hundreds or thousands of miles with just the clothes on their backs and wornout shoes, just to get a job. They broke no laws except crossing the border and sometimes carrying a backpack of pot one time to earn their freedom. I believe our judicial system works pretty well, but the normal odds of getting caught means the people in prison usually committed numerous crimes, hurting a lot of people, before they were finally incarcerated. There are improvements that could be made to our education system, but things like lowering behavior standards because of one group’s high rate of suspension has not worked. Once again, false compassion. In Georgetown, Ky. Where the Toyota plant is located, there is very little crime because everyone has a job of some kind waiting for them the minute they get out of high school. Even if they drop out they can change truck tires at the truck stops. This points to better solutions than anything the Government can come up with.

  • Bill

    I am not at all suprised that there are African-Americans who are concerned about the….browning-racist of America. After all since all homo-sapiens are equal it should not be surpising that there are a…..tiny minority of African-Americans who incorrectly(?) fear that they(persons of color-non-African Americans)are stealing “our jobs”.

  • Sam Molloy

    Dan, I believe you are exactly right.

  • concernedcitizen

    Well I agree that education is very important and that overall our society has a great lack of it leading to the breeding grounds of some of the worse we have to offer up as “alleged” human beings.

    But there are those who get caught up innocently in a system and they do desire to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps.

    At least there are many Universities online now offering free courses and some provide certificates if the course is successfully completed.

    It’s not much but its something.

  • aadila

    Sam, I am not surprised that survivors of the world’s largest confinement, torture and state-sanctioned rape industry would be in no condition to return to society under conditions reminiscent of bond slavery. Parolees need more than job opportunities upon release: they need education, job skills, substance abuse/psychological treatment, and a new sense of self — while still in prison. That’s hard to provide when the state cannot even manage to observe the basic human rights of detainees. America’s high-school to prison pipeline is not famous for rehabilitation, but it does seem pretty good at guaranteeing those who do go out alive end up going right back in.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    ” The real question is will the bill being pushing through Congress hurt African-Americans?”

    Neither. The small number of people eligible for citizenship under this program won’t make any difference in any demographic.

    What this law will do, and what I assume it is intended to do, is increase the demonization of the next generation of illegal immigrants.

    Agriculture, construction and a few other industries _depend_ on exploitable labor. Thus they need illegal immigration. Therefor illegal immigration will continue, but with more punitive restrictions and less public sympathy.

    Once we have granted citizenship to some immigrants, we will be able to really hammer the next illegals. Racists and nativists will love it, and corporations love exploitable labor that has no legal recourse.

  • Publium

    OK, so BALA is a front for FAIR. The real question is will the bill being pushing through Congress hurt African-Americans? Does immigration in general hurt of help African-Americans?

  • Sam Molloy

    A pilot program in ‘Bama to replace exiled immigrants with recent parolees who could not find work, to harvest crops. This effort was a massive failure, with the vast majority not even finishing one day of work. In Kentucky immigrants do “Tobacco Work”, brought in under legal contracts. I’m in pretty good shape but from what I hear I could not do that work. Something to consider however are robots being developed by the Israelis and beginning to be used in Europe that can harvest crops. A basic small wheeled chassis carries any of various machines, one of which can visually discern a ripe strawberry from a nonripe one, and gently pick it without smashing it.