Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Iowa Rep. Steve King, former Rep. Allen West and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions are all planning to appear at an anti-immigration reform rally held by a group with close connections to the white nationalist movement. According to Right Wing Watch, the Black American Leadership Association (BALA) is not the grass-roots organization it purports to be, but rather a longstanding cabal of anti-immigration activists who have “deep connections” to white nationalist John Tanton, a man the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”
The march, called the “D.C. March for Jobs,” with its “Just say ‘No’ to Amnesty” theme is slated for Monday and is expected to draw a heavily tea party-affiliated, far-right crowd. Michelle Cottle at the Daily Beast wrote Friday that BALA is believed to be “the latest in a series of minority front groups providing anti-immigration extremists cover from charges of racism.”
Tea party leaders, wrote Cottle, have been “downright giddy” about having a group of activists of color on hand to point to when critics call out the recent anti-immigration reform putsch by conservatives as a display of racial animus.
BALA founder Leah Durant claims that the group’s mission is to protect the economic viability of African-Americans in the U.S. by stemming the tide of undocumented workers it believes are streaming into the country, thereby preventing the widespread black unemployment they say would result from the “devastating effects of amnesty and mass immigration.”
In a June open letter to the Senate Gang of Eight, BALA “implor[ed] each Member to fulfill his or her duty to the millions of Americans struggling to find work” by killing the Senate bill and taking measures to reduce immigration.
Durant has found herself inundated with media attention from right-leaning outlets, including invitations to appear with Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingraham, Mike Huckabee and others. BALA’s efforts to kill immigration reform have been trumpeted by the Daily Caller and the National Review.
Cottle wrote that while BALA’s existence only dates to the publication of its Facebook page in mid-May, at least a dozen of its members are long-time anti-immigration activists have have spent decades pushing the message that immigration will be economically devastating to the black community. Under different names over the years, including the African American Leadership Council, Choose Black America and the Coalition for the Future American Worker, this group of activists have been pushing policy agendas that Cottle called “misleading, dangerously divisive, and sadly predictable.”
Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Human and Civil Rights, told Cottle, “We’ve seen this before. This is the same page pulled from an over-20-year-old playbook.”
Several BALA leaders — Durant, Frank Morris, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, and T. Willard Fair — have worked for, lobbied with or supported the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a notoriously anti-Latino, pro-eugenics organization that the SPLC classifies as a hate group. FAIR was founded by John Tanton, who, in the late 1980s, was outed as a racist when portions of his private correspondence were made public — letters and memos in which he railed against the “Latin onslaught” and said that society was doomed without a “a European-American majority — and a clear one at that.”
Aaron Flanagan of the Center for New Community told Cottle that BALA’s newfound utility to the anti-immigration right is “blatant tokenism.” He said, “And tokenism is not a word I use lightly.”
Henderson expressed disappointment. “It’s troubling when opportunists use the economic challenges of the African-American community as cover for ideological and political extremism to align themselves with groups like FAIR, which had their own genesis in the eugenics movement.”
Joining the Republican Party politicians at Monday’s march will be fiery fundamentalist Christian pastor O’Neal Dozier, who was Florida state director of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)’s presidential campaign in 2012. Dozier declared that former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)’s Mormonism made him a threat to the country and that it would “taint the Republican Party” to choose Romney as its nominee.
Dozier is also known for his extreme anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim statements, including the belief that homosexuality is the “paramount of sins” and that same sex partnerships are “something so nasty and disgusting that it makes God want to vomit.” He has publicly stated that Islam “has a plan, a 20-year plan, to take over America from within.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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