Report: Anti-immigrant groups collude with homeland security employees

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Moody College of Communication/Flikr

By Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera America / June 30, 2015

Some Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees and union leaders have been colluding with white nationalist, anti-immigrant groups, lending credibility to hate groups and giving them an outsized influence on federal immigration policy, according to a report released Monday.

Many of the same DHS employees have testified at congressional hearings and made statements to the press as “credible” and “neutral” experts on the topic of immigration — making the collusion more troubling, said the report by Center for New Community, a group that tracks social and racial injustice.

“Do we really want law enforcement agents colluding with people who seek a European-American majority?” Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said in a conference call on Monday. “Do we really want our law enforcement officers cooperating with people who are friends with (hate groups) who call all Latino people ‘dumb’ and circulate conspiracy theories about Jewish power?”

The report, titled “Blurring Borders: Collusion between Anti-Immigrant Groups and Immigration Enforcement Agents,” identified three anti-immigrant groups with close ties to DHS members.

Those organizations — Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA — can be traced to a white nationalist named John Tanton, the report said, who has “advocated drastically reducing, if not altogether halting, all avenues of immigration.”

FAIR, a non-profit public interest group aimed at increasing border security, is defined as a hate group by The Southern Poverty Law Center, and has hired people from white supremacist and other hate groups, Potok said.

Tanton has publicly stated the importance of maintaining a European-American majority in the U.S., and FAIR’s current leadership shares a similar mindset, Potok added.

The anti-immigrant groups do not seem to officially work with DHS, but they develop sources within the organization that leak information to them, the report said.

The report says that the anti-immigrant movement has worked with leaders of the unions representing a majority of employees at Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement: the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) and the National ICE Council.

“Instead of fulfilling organized labor’s traditional role of advocating for respectable wages and working conditions, leaders of these particular unions appear more focused on coordinating with special interest groups in the Beltway to advance anti-immigrant policy goals,” the report said.

CIS organizes annual tours of the U.S.-Mexico border for its members and in March 2014 NBPC Local 1613 based in Southern California thanked two of its current agents, Manny Bayon and Chris Bauder, on Twitter for “showing the truth on the southern border” during a “border tour for CIS,” the report said.

The two are elected union representatives, while Bauder is currently executive vice president of the NBPC, according to the report.

As a result of this influence and that the groups themselves have testified to Congress “hundreds and hundreds of times,” the anti-immigrant movement has been “very effective” in killing comprehensive immigration reform, Potok said.

Evidence of collusion, according to the report, includes the fact many union leaders within DHS have advocated for immigration policy identical to those advocated by the anti-immigration movement — specifically that of CIS, said Anu Joshi of Center for New Community.

In August 2012 after the deportation relief program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was announced by President Barack Obama, 10 ICE agents filed a lawsuit against then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, ICE directors and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Christopher Crane, president of the National ICE Council, was lead plaintiff.

Despite the lawsuit’s dismissal, the case allowed anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA to “construct a platform from which Crane could act as a prominent spokesperson,” the report said. The group announced it would cover all legal fees in the case and Kris Kobach — an attorney for the FAIR’s legal project, Immigration Reform Law Institute — was recruited to represent Crane and his colleagues.

Kobach has worked with FAIR in the past to draft some of the country’s most anti-immigrant bills including Arizona’s notorious SB 1070, which required police to determine the immigration status of anyone arrested or detained if there was “reasonable suspicion” that they were in the U.S. illegally.

Another example of collusion, according to Monday’s report, surfaced last July at a protest organized by far-right activists with ties to white nationalists in Murietta, California. The protesters blocked buses of children and their parents who had fled Central American violence, chanting, “Go back home!” and “We don’t want you here!,” Joshi said.

“The real question is how did they know when and where the buses were going? The answer lies in the long-standing relationship between DHS and leaders of the anti-immigration movement,” Joshi said during the conference call.

Media outlets reported NBPC Local 1613 health and safety director Ron Zermeno as the source of leaked details regarding the migrants’ transportation, the report said. Zermeno had also taken part in a conference call on July 23, 2014 with organizers of a nine-day border convoy aimed at stopping the “invasion,” according to the report.

Zermeno told organizers, “I’m here to help you guys,” the report said, adding that he offered to coordinate with border patrol agents the routes for the protest.

The DHS has said it is looking into the issue of this alleged cases of collusion. In the meantime, the groups behind the report say they will continue to raise awareness to spur federal action.

“What we’re planning to do is continuing to raise awareness of impacts of collusion and applying pressure on Congress and the administration to stop this from happening,” Joshi said.

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