Meet the Anti-Immigrant Group Legal Immigrants for America and Their Staff
The group calls for the United States to ban Muslim immigrants and believes that President Obama has changed the Pledge of Allegiance to accommodate Islam. It has sounded the alarm that “card carrying communists have infiltrated” America's halls of power, and even warned that undocumented immigrants are having babies to stay in the United States and undermine the ethnic character of America.
Meet Legal Immigrants for America (LIFA), which first made its debut at the anti-gay hate group Liberty Counsel’s annual Awakening event in 2015.
Founded in Winter Springs, Fla, by Amapola Hansberger, a former Pan American Airline employee and Nicaraguan immigrant, LIFA is a fierce anti-immigrant organization, encouraging lawmakers to repeal the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to all native born, and to establish English-only and strict border-enforcement legislation.
The group is much more, though, intertwining anti-Muslim rhetoric, extremist conspiracy theories and anti-LGBT language into its overarching campaign “to influence public policy and to educate people about United States immigration history,” according to the group’s website.
Even more remarkably, LIFA has in recent months expanded its ideological concerns into the anti-LGBT world, hiring former Counsel director of engagement Stephen D. Guschov as its new executive director.
During Guschov’s time at the Counsel, he frequently represented the group’s hardline positions against homosexuality at events such as the October 2015 Villages Conservative Action Group meeting. There, Guschov responded to the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, claiming, “If a man made law violates God’s law, Christians should be under no compunction to follow that law.”
It seems Guschov has found a receptive group for his anti-gay agenda. Hansberger also has challenged same sex marriage and supported Rowan County, Ky., clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples last year.
Despite that cross-pollination of extremist ideas, LIFA remains primarily focused on immigration from Mexico and the Muslim world.
In an interview on the Florida-based radio talk show The Carl Jackson Show, Hansberger sounded a harsh and racist warning about what it means to have Muslims in America. “It’s imperative that we unite and defend our country … to prevent our future generations from needing to flee their homes to escape death from Muslims,” Hansberger said, adding later in the interview that, “We need to awaken and teach Americans about Islam. … The Koran is clear. It asks its followers to kill the infidels wherever you find them, if they refuse to convert.”
LIFA has also pushed extremist conspiracy theories claiming immigrants should be banned if they “intend to topple our government and institute theirs, such as the Muslims’ Sharia Law,” according to a LIFA web post. The group has even recently cited an article from the racist website American Thinker, which claims “the Obama administration recently made changes to the Oath of Allegiance to the United States in a manner very conducive to Sharia, or Islamic law” and has been “successful in implementing their Marxist and Islamic Agendas.”
Sounding like deceased Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Hansberger claims, “card carrying communists have infiltrated our government.”
LIFA’s hardline positions go on.
Hansberger refers to undocumented children born in the United States as “anchor babies,” a racially charged term first used to describe Vietnamese children sent to the United States in the 1980s. And just as Donald Trump claimed Mexican immigrants are rapists, LIFA blames undocumented immigrants for “increased crime rates, lower standards of education, and the declining home values where they live.”
Since the beginning of the year, Hansberger has traveled across the country, meeting with local politicians and anti-immigrant organizations. Most recently, Guschov returned from a trip to southern California, where he met with We the People Rising, and other extremist organizations such as Inland Empire Oath Keepers, to work on building a coalition.
We the People Rising is also part of the Unite Inland Empire, a working group comprised of, “Republican and Tea Party groups, and it includes chapters of anti-Muslim, white nationalist, and extreme far-Right groups,” the Center for New Community reported.
This is not the first time a naturalized citizen or person of color has created an anti-immigrant group. Founded in the early 2000s, You Don’t Speak for Me (YDSFM) was led by Rosanna Pulido, a Chicago native of Mexican descent. Pulido joined the anti-immigrant movement by participating in the original Minuteman Project operation in April 2005, and then formed the Chicago and Illinois chapters of the project.
While LIFA is not even a year old, and the latest to disguise itself as immigrant friendly, the group has made one thing clear about itself: it is trying to grow its influence and willing to be bedfellows with any number of extremist groups to make that happen.