Strange Bedfellows: Left and Right on Immigration

By Mark Krikorian on March 31, 2004

National Review Online, March 31, 2004

The high-immigration Right is on the warpath, trying to delegitimize all conservatives who stand between them and the illegal-alien amnesties they crave. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal ran an outrageous piece - slamming National Review, Fox News, various Republican congressmen, and my own organization as being part of a restrictionist cabal of baby-killing, white-supremacist, Chi-Com lovers. Of my Center for Immigration Studies, the Journal's Jason Riley wrote, among other things, that despite the fact that CIS "may strike right-wing poses in the press," we nonetheless "support big government, mock federalism, deride free markets and push a cultural agenda abhorrent to any self-respecting social conservative." The fact that none of this is even remotely true didn't stop the flood of adjectives from continuing, with CIS described as "repugnant" and a "big fan of China's one-child policy," and by implication "neo-Malthusian," eugenicist, and an opponent of free trade, to boot!

Not to be outdone, Rep. Chris Cannon, the White House point-man on immigration, last week picked up the ball with a "Dear Colleague" letter to members of Congress informing them that "It has come to my attention that many of the anti-immigration groups also have an anti-life agenda." This came on the heels of a congressional hearing last Wednesday which Rep. Cannon turned into an inquisition about which immigration restrictionists had lunch with which other immigration restrictionists (I am not making this up - watch the whole hearing here.)

This kind of venomous lying and guilt by association are par for the course in the fever swamps of the web, but are startling in the halls of the U.S. Congress and the pages of the nation's largest-circulation newspaper.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all this hyperventilating nonsense there is actually an issue worth discussing. Because the immigration issue cuts across conventional political boundaries, can conservatives critical of today's immigration mess make common cause with like-minded liberals? And how have conservative supporters of high immigration worked with the liberals who agree with them?

Believe it or not, there are numerous liberals (though few members of their elites) who are concerned about admitting a million-plus immigrants a year. The divide is between the patriotic and the non-patriotic Left. Liberals who worry about America's poor oppose mass immigration; liberals whose advocacy for the poor stems from their loathing for America want more immigration. Liberals who love America's environment and quality of life are concerned about immigration; liberals who express their hatred for America through environmentalism support more immigration.

It's true that patriotic liberals often hold what I consider to be mistaken opinions on other matters - that, after all, is why they're liberals and I'm not. But my Center for Immigration Studies reflects a variety of perspectives on immigration, conservative and liberal, all convinced that today's policies are inconsistent with our country's best interests. But immigration is all we do - not abortion, not tax policy, not gun control - so a diversity of opinion on those other matters is not an issue.

Let me insert here the unfortunately necessary disclaimer: The Center for Immigration Studies is not now, nor has it ever been, a supporter of China's one-child policy. The Center for Immigration Studies is not now, nor has it ever been, a supporter of RU-486. CIS is not now, nor has it ever been, a recipient of money from a eugenicist foundation called the Pioneer Fund. We take no position on anything that does not involve U.S. immigration policy. Period.

Now, since they brought it up, let's look at which elements of the Left the high-immigration Right has allied itself with.

On June 6, 2002, Rep. Cannon received the Excellence in Leadership Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), a leftist group created by the open-borders Ford Foundation. At the fundraising banquet where he received the award, he said that "We love immigrants in Utah. And we don't make the distinction very often between legal and illegal. In fact, I think Utah was the first state in the country to legislate the ability to get a driver's license based on the matricula consular [the Mexican government's illegal-alien ID card] and of that I'm proud." (listen to his speech, taped from C-SPAN, here). In this speech he also praised pregnant women sneaking into the United States in order to have U.S.-citizen children; recognized the member of his own staff who was "translating what MALDEF would like to do into legislative language"; and described himself as an example of the phenomenon that, in politics, "as you come to the extremes, you actually get close together."

In light of Cannon's high-profile advocacy on immigration, it's curious that his campaign website contains no mention of immigration, neither on the "issues" nor "legislation" pages. Perhaps he thinks his constituents might not be thrilled by his support for illegal-alien amnesties and mass immigration. In fact, at a 2002 convention of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (listen to his AILA speech here), he jokingly welcomed the assembled immigration lawyers to move to Utah to help him deflect a primary challenge based on his support for illegal-alien amnesties. And he faces the same challenger again this year, while the issue is being highlighted by billboards in his district.

Nor is Rep. Cannon the only high-immigration Republican to be lionized by a left-wing racial-identity group. When Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was in the Senate, he was the leader of the high-immigration tendency among Republicans. For his services, he received, on March 5, 1997, the "Defender of the Melting Pot" award from the National Council of La Raza. La Raza (which means "The Race" in Spanish) is another organization essentially created by the Ford Foundation, enjoying its largesse to the tune of more than $32 million since 1968. As Victor Davis Hanson has pointed out, if the group were named der Nationalrat das Volk, and lobbied for pan-German racial identity, it wouldn't get the time of day in polite society.

And then there's the National Immigration Forum, the umbrella organization for high-immigration political advocacy, which works closely with sympathetic Republicans. But NIF is not like the conventional lobbying coalitions that exist on numerous issues. It was cofounded by the National Lawyers Guild in the 1980s, back when the Guild was a Soviet front group. The group's first head was Rick Swartz, a leftist attorney who cut his teeth advocating for Haitian illegal aliens and who, during a 1981 Senate hearing, likened the United States to Nazi Germany.

Like many lobbying coalitions, the NIF board includes representatives of Republican stalwarts like the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Restaurant Association, and used to include Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute, now head of the Club for Growth. Whatever his libertarian views on immigration, I imagine Steve hightailed it out of there after he realized what he'd gotten into, because the people sitting around the conference table at NIF board meetings include some decidedly unsavory characters. In addition to the usual leftist suspects - the ACLU, the Service Employees Union, Jim Zogby of the Arab American Institute - the NIF board includes the head of the immigration lawyers' association, one Jeanne Butterfield, who used to be executive director of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, identified by the Anti-Defamation League as an alliance between members of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine and the Workers World party (the Trotskyites behind the Iraq War protests). As David Horowitz observed in National Review in 1991, Butterfield's organization was "one of the few groups in the world supporting Saddam's rape of Kuwait." Butterfield was later litigation director for Centro Presente, a Cambridge, Mass., outfit which provided aid to Central American illegals and was headed at the time by Frank Sharry, who is now, not coincidentally, head of NIF.

Also on the NIF board is the head of the L.A. branch of CARECEN, which backed the Communists in El Salvador's civil war and which helped pioneer the "sanctuary" movement to subvert U.S. immigration law. And, like the rest of the high-immigration Left that Chris Cannon has embraced, NIF's biggest funders include the Ford Foundation and George Soros's Open Society Institute.

The high-immigration Right works hand-in-glove with the anti-American Left. Does this mean that there are no unsavory elements on the low-immigration side? As one who works in this field for a living, I know better than anyone that the answer is "No," with both white-nationalist cranks writing from their mothers' basements and culture-of-death leftists who think humanity is a cancer. But these extremes are marginal to a movement comprised of politically mature conservatives and liberals who agree to disagree on other issues in order to cooperate on one of the most important issues facing our country.

The question, then, is not whether conservatives will make common cause with liberals over immigration, but which liberals to make common cause with. I am proud to stand with the patriotic Left on the specific issue of immigration where our interests overlap. Chris Cannon and company have made the opposite choice, embracing some enemies of America.

Which choice would you make?

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.