The Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA), an anti-immigrant coalition that has ties to nativist hate groups, is hosting a rally in Washington, D.C., on July 15 with the purported mission to “preserve economic opportunity for American workers” by opposing immigration reform. Here is what the media should know about the group and its effort.
BALA Scheduled To Host D.C. Rally On July 15
Daily Beast: Black Activists, “Tea-Party Protesters Will Convene On Freedom Plaza Before Making Their Way To The Capitol.” As The Daily Beast reported:
Monday is the day to stand up and be counted at the D.C. March for Jobs, as tea-party protesters will convene on Freedom Plaza before making their way to the Capitol. Scheduled speakers include Sen. Ted Cruz, Reps. Steve King and Mo Brooks, and former Rep. Allen West. Their theme for the day: Just Say “No” to Amnesty.
What makes this protest different from other protests? Officially, it's being hosted not by any Tea Party affiliate but by the Black American Leadership Alliance, a self-described nonprofit dedicated to “Protecting the Futures of Black Americans.” Multiple BALA members, including founder Leah Durant, will speak at the rally, along with other ministers and activists from the black community. [The Daily Beast, 7/12/13]
BALA Is A Front Group For Anti-Immigrant, Nativist Hate Organizations
PFAW: BALA “Is Just The Latest Incarnation Of A Shifting Series Of Front Groups For The Anti-Immigrant Nativist Group FAIR.” As People For The American Way noted, BALA “is just the latest incarnation of a shifting series of front groups for the anti-immigrant nativist group FAIR, which has been trying for years to drive a wedge between African Americans and Latinos.” In fact, according to the Anti-Defamation League, BALA is the new name of what was once known as the African American Leadership Council (AALC). AALC, along with You Don't Speak for Me (YDSFM), was part of a network of groups formed as a way to expand opposition to immigration reform in black and Latino communities by recruiting a coalition of minority conservative leaders. AALC was modeled after a previous similar effort -- orchestrated by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- that birthed a group called Choose Black America (CBA), which had little impact on the immigration debate. [Media Matters, 7/11/13]
FAIR Has Been Designated A Hate Group For Its Extremist Ideology. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FAIR a hate group for its “ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists” and for making “many racist statements.” From SPLC:
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a group with one mission: to severely limit immigration into the United States. Although FAIR maintains a veneer of legitimacy that has allowed its principals to testify in Congress and lobby the federal government, this veneer hides much ugliness. FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR's founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country. One of the group's main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans. FAIR President Dan Stein has called the Act a “mistake.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 7/15/13]
BALA Founder, Leah Durant, Is Also Executive Director Of Progressives For Immigration Reform. According to her biography on the DC March for Jobs website, Leah Durant is both founder of the Black American Leadership Alliance and the executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform, which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, has substantial backing from the “white-dominated Federation for American Immigration Reform.” From the SPLC:
This new wave of greenwashing attempts, in particular the formation of Progressives for Immigration Reform as a purported group of “liberals,” is only the latest attempt by nativist forces to appear as something they are not. The white-dominated Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the most important of the groups founded by Tanton, has been behind the creation of three other front groups that supposedly represented African Americans (Choose Black America), Latino Americans (You Don't Speak for Me!) and labor (Coalition for the Future American Worker). In fact, FAIR had its own white spokesman double as a press representative for the first two organizations. Another group unrelated to FAIR, Vietnamese for Fair Immigration, turned out to be led by a white man who used a fake Vietnamese surname and whose only connection to that country was that he liked the food. [DC March For Jobs, accessed 7/12/13; Southern Poverty Law Center, July 2010]
BALA Rally Speaker Frank Morris Has Ties To Several Anti-Immigrant, Nativist Organizations. A report detailing the affiliations of members associated with BALA by People for the American Way explained that Frank Morris sits “on the boards of [the anti-immigrant hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform] and the Center for Immigration Studies and [is] serving as the vice president of [Progressives for American Immigration Reform].” [People for the American Way, 6/7/13]
BALA Rally Speaker Michael Cutler Has Ties To Nativist Group, Center For Immigration Studies. In a post outlining Michel Cutler's background, the Center for New Community noted that he was a former fellow with the nativist organization, Center for Immigration Studies, and that he is currently a senior writing fellow for another anti-immigrant organization, Californians for Population Stabilization. [Center for New Community, 7/9/12]
BALA Members, March Speakers Hold Extremist Views Of Immigrants
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Referred To The H1N1 Virus As “The Illegal Alien Disease.” Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson has claimed that the H1N1 virus is an “illegal alien disease” and that undocumented immigrants are “coming in through the back door bringing all types of diseases.” [Hannity, 10/21/09, via Media Matters]
Daily Beast: “If Something Is Coming Out Of Peterson's Mouth, There's A Good Chance It, At Best, Borders On Hate Speech.” In an article previewing the march, The Daily Beast noted that Peterson has extreme views of immigrants, women, and African-Americans, writing:
[P]erhaps BALA's most colorful character is the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a one-time member of Choose Black America and the founder of BOND (The Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny), a nonprofit with the motto “Rebuilding the Family by Rebuilding the Man.” A harder-than-hard-core conservative and professional provocateur, Peterson is an equal-opportunity offender. Immigrants, in fact, arguably get softer treatment from him than do women and his fellow African-Americans. He has declared that giving women the vote is “one of the greatest mistakes America ever made” and claimed that “wherever woman reigns, evil is taking over.” Perhaps more notable still, he is forever decrying “black racism,” which he sees pretty much everywhere. His July 2 column for World Net Daily, for example, bore the headline, “Black racism killed Trayvon...and Paula Deen's career.” Peterson has asserted that blacks should be put back “on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working,” declared the NAACP to be “no different than the KKK,” and claimed that President Obama “hates white Americans--especially white men.” In short, if something is coming out of Peterson's mouth, there's a good chance it, at best, borders on hate speech. [The Daily Beast, 7/12/13]
Fox News Contributor Allen West Has Likened Undocumented Immigrants To An “Invasion.” During an interview with members of the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers editorial board, Fox News contributor and former Rep. Allen West likened undocumented immigrants to an “invasion,” saying:
“I think that illegal immigration -- the operative word is 'illegal.' It also says here in Article 1 Section 8 [reading] that you have to repel invasions. I think that anytime someone is coming across your border and they haven't been invited, that can be considered what the Founding Fathers wrote as an invasion into your country.” [Real Clear Politics, 11/28/11]
Michael Cutler Has Suggested That A Significant Portion Of The Undocumented Population Has “Dangerous Communicable Diseases.” In a July 3 op-ed for The Washington Times, Cutler wrote: “While the prospect of employment may have been the motivation for the great majority of illegal aliens to run our borders, a significant percentage of the illegal-alien population includes those who know they could not be lawfully admitted via the inspections process that is designed to prevent the entry of aliens who have dangerous communicable diseases, severe mental illness, serious criminal histories, are fugitives from justice in other countries or have committed war crimes or human rights violations, or are spies or terrorists.” [The Washington Times, 7/3/13]
Filmmaker Dennis Lynch: Not All Immigrants Are “Coming Here To Cut Your Lawn;” Some Are Coming To “Cut Your Throat.” During an appearance on Fox News, documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch claimed not all immigrants are coming to the United States to work and support their families; some are coming “to cut your throat.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/18/12]
BALA March Promotes Myth That Immigration Reform Will Hurt Wages Of African-Americans
BALA: Immigration Reform Will Hurt Wages Of African-American Workers. As National Review Online reported, in a letter urging members of Congress to oppose the Senate immigration reform bill, BALA wrote:
“We are firmly convinced that such an expansion of the labor force during one of the most protracted periods of high unemployment in decades will result in suppressed wages for all Americans, but the effects on African Americans will be the most devastating. Given the current economic outlook, with declining wages and fewer opportunities for black workers, now is not the time to add millions more workers as S. 744 proposes.” [National Review Online, 6/3/13]
Immigration Policy Center: "To The Extent That There Really Is A 'Black-Brown' Divide, It Is Rooted In Politics And Perception--Not Economics." In a study examining hundreds of metropolitan areas to determine what effect immigration has on African-Americans in terms of wages and employment, the Immigration Policy Center found that “for every 1% increase in a city's share of Latinos, African median and mean wages increase by 3%.” IPC concluded: “To the extent that there really is a ” black-brown" divide, it is rooted in politics and perception--not economics." From the study:
A comprehensive analysis of Census data from hundreds of U.S. metropolitan areas indicate that immigration from Latin America improves wages and job opportunities for African Americans. This analysis serves to dispel the common myth that African Americans are negatively impacted by the immigration of less-skilled workers from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. It is often assumed that Latino immigrants and African Americans are locked in ruinous competition for the same jobs, resulting in lower wages and higher unemployment rates for African Americans. In fact, Latino immigrants and African Americans fill complementary roles in the labor market--they are not simply substitutes for one another. In addition, cities which have suffered the effects of declining population are rejuvenated by an inflow of Latino immigrants who increase the labor force, tax base, consumer base, etc. To the extent that there really is a “black-brown” divide, it is rooted in politics and perception--not economics.
The evidence shows that cities with greater immigration from Latin America experience:
Higher wages for African Americans. For every 1% increase in a city's share of Latinos, African median and mean wages increase by 3%. This relationship is large. Consider St. Louis, which has 1.5% of its population from Latin America. If St. Louis were to have a Latino population share as large as other large metropolitan areas, African American wages would be approximately 30% higher.[Immigration Policy Center, 6/12/13]
National Bureau Of Economic Research: In The Long Run, Immigrants Have Small But Positive Effect On “Native Workers With No High School Degree.” The National Bureau of Economic Research found that, from 1990 to 2006, immigration had small negative effects on workers without a high school degree and their wages in the short run, but positive effects in the long run:
Finally, we account for the short run and long run adjustment of capital in response to immigration. Using our estimates and Census data we find that immigration (1990-2006) had small negative effects in the short run on native workers with no high school degree (-0.7%) and on average wages (-0.4%) while it had small positive effects on native workers with no high school degree (+0.3%) and on average native wages (+0.6%) in the long run. These results are perfectly in line with the estimated aggregate elasticities in the labor literature since Katz and Murphy (1992). [National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2008]
Economic Policy Institute: African-Americans Experience Positive Wage Effects As A Result Of Immigration. In a February 2010 study, the Economic Policy Institute found that immigration increased the wages of black, non-Hispanic U.S.-born workers by an average of .4 percent:
While the methodology used in this paper does not allow for a racial breakdown of the effect of immigration on U.S.-born workers in different education groups, we find that the overall effect of immigration on wages is similar for white non-Hispanic U.S.-born workers (+0.5%) and black non-Hispanic U.S.-born workers (+0.4%). [Economic Policy Institute, February 2010]
BALA March Spreads False Claim That Immigrants Will Take Jobs From African-Americans
BALA: “Decades Of High Immigration Levels Has Caused Unemployment To Rise Significantly, Most Particularly Among Black Americans.” In a letter urging congressional leaders to oppose immigration reform, BALA claimed studies show that immigration has caused high unemployment among African-Americans:
Many studies have shown that black Americans are disproportionately harmed by mass immigration and amnesty. Most policy makers who favor the legalization of nearly 11 million aliens fail to acknowledge that decades of high immigration levels has caused unemployment to rise significantly, most particularly among black Americans. They further fail to consider how current plans to add 33 million more legal workers within ten years will have an enormously disastrous effect on our nation's jobs outlook. [Black American Leadership Alliance, 6/3/13]
Immigration Policy Center: “There Is No Correlation Between The Size Of The Foreign-Born Population And The African American Unemployment Rate In U.S. Metropolitan Areas.” A study conducted by Rob Paral and Associates for the Immigration Policy Center found that areas with high numbers of unemployed African-Americans often had lower foreign-born populations:
If immigrants took jobs away from large numbers of minority workers, one would expect to find higher minority unemployment rates in those parts of the country with larger numbers of immigrants. Yet data from the 2009 American Community Survey, analyzed for the IPC by Rob Paral and Associates, indicate that there is no correlation between the size of the foreign-born population and the African American unemployment rate in U.S. metropolitan areas.
African American unemployment rates in many low-immigration cities are far higher than in many high-immigration cities. For instance, immigrants were 17.6 percent of the population in Miami in 2009, but only 3.1 percent of the population in Toledo. Yet the unemployment rate for African Americans in Toledo (30.1 percent) was much higher than that of African Americans in Miami (17.6 percent). [Immigration Policy Center, 3/1/11]
Economist Daniel Griswold: The Narrative That Immigrants Steal African-American Jobs Is A “Pernicious Myth.” In congressional testimony, Daniel Griswold, Cato Institute director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies, stated that the claim that low-skilled immigrants harm the employment prospects of African-Americans is a “pernicious myth,” saying:
It is an especially pernicious myth that low-skilled immigrants harm the employment prospects of African Americans. As with most other Americans, few African Americans compete directly with immigrant workers. In what was probably the most thorough economic study of U.S. immigration ever, the 1997 report of the National Research Council, titled The New Americans, came to the conclusion that:
None of the available evidence on spatial correlations suggests that in the aggregate the economic opportunities of black Americans are substantially reduced by immigration. ... Some black workers have lost their jobs to immigrants, especially when they live in a place with a large concentration of immigrants. But the vast majority do not live in such places, and their economic opportunities are determined by other things.
Those “other things” include the quality of education, local crime rates, and the overall business climate. I would humbly suggest to the Committee members that improving any or all of those other things would do far more to enhance the economic opportunities of American workers than beefed up worksite enforcement against the hiring of low-skilled immigrants.
My own research at the Cato Institute shows that the growth of Hispanic immigration has not had a negative effect on lower-income African Americans. In fact, the evidence from the past 20 years shows that as immigrants have moved in, native-born Americans, including African Americans, have generally moved up. From 1994 through 2007, the number of illegal immigrants in the United States more than doubled, from an estimated 4.5 million to 11 million. During that same period, the number of African Americans living below the poverty line dropped by 1.6 million. [House Committee On The Judiciary, 1/26/11]
Civil Rights Leaders Have Rejected BALA And Its Divisive, Anti-Immigrant Message
Civil Rights Leader Wade Henderson: “Actual Civil Rights Leaders View Immigration Reform As A Defining Civil And Human Rights Issue Of Our Time.” Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, stated: “Actual civil rights leaders view immigration reform as a defining civil and human rights issue of our time. The opinions expressed in today's press conference are not shared by most African-Americans, civil rights leaders, members of the Congressional Black Caucus or any other significant constituency in the African-American community.” [Anti-Defamation League, 5/3/13]
Henderson: BALA Is Using “The Economic Challenges Of The African-American Community As Cover For Ideological And Political Extremism.” In an article about the march, The Daily Beast reported:
Among the group's dozen or so members are several seasoned activists who have long been conducting this same anti-immigration crusade by means of an evolving series of similar groups. The organizations' names change -- BALA, the African American Leadership Council, Choose Black America, the Coalition for the Future American Worker -- but the message remains constant: Immigration is killing the black community. It's a simplistic, us-vs.-them argument that some black leaders find misleading, dangerously divisive, and sadly predictable. “We've seen this before,” says Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “This is the same page pulled from an over-20-year-old playbook.”
As a result of the many links between BALA's leaders and the Tanton network, hate-group watchdogs have expressed concern that the organization is merely the latest in a series of minority front groups providing anti-immigration extremists cover from charges of racism. “It's blatant tokenism,” says Aaron Flanagan of the Center for New Community. “And tokenism is not a word I use lightly.” Henderson is more diplomatic: “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.” [The Daily Beast, 7/12/13]
Black Faith And Community Leaders Support Immigration Reform. In a statement in support of immigration reform, African-American faith and community leaders of the PICO National Network stated:
We, as African-Americans, know too well the struggles to become fully recognized - fully enfranchised members of the American family.
We have a long and storied history of “standing in the gap” for our rights and for the rights of those who are marginalized, oppressed and left out of the mainstream. Indeed, our legacy at the vanguard of social justice is an unassailable fixture of the American cultural landscape and has been a beacon to many in this country and around the world.
America is now in the midst of a national debate about who should be recognized as a full citizen. PICO National Network is responding by mounting an historic campaign for citizenship for 11 million immigrants, many of whom are our brothers and sisters from the motherland, the Caribbean, and Haiti.
It is fitting then, at this important juncture in the struggle, that we once again assert the leadership and courage that has been our hallmark and press for justice on behalf of the millions from other shores who have labored, been educated, worshipped and lived among us. We do this in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters including those from Latino and Asian communities. This moral imperative, grounded in our sacred texts, to honor our mutual humanity - and our common struggle for justice - calls us forward and fuels our determination. [Campaign for Citizenship, accessed 7/15/13]
Black Religious Leaders: “For Far Too Long Politicians Have Used Immigration To Divide Americans Along Racial Lines.” In a press release noting the strong support of African-Americans and religious leaders for immigration reform, Faith in Public Life reported:
A poll released today by the Service Employees International Union, conducted by Hart Research Associates, shows that African Americans overwhelmingly support immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans. Nationally prominent black clergy leaders applauded and echoed this finding.
“For far too long politicians have used immigration to divide Americans along racial lines,” said Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, President of the Skinner Leadership Institute. “But African Americans are rejecting the politics of division and saying that giving our immigrant neighbors the opportunity to become citizens reflects Christian values of justice, compassion and equality.”
“Any speculation that African Americans oppose immigration reform is incorrect,” said Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. “What I hear from people in the pews is that no one should be trapped in second-class status, regardless of race or where you were born. Now is the time to build a road to citizenship for aspiring Americans.” [Faith in Public Life, 5/14/13]
NAACP Supports Immigration Reform. In an op-ed expressing the NAACP's support for immigration reform, president Ben Jealous wrote:
African Americans have spent much of our history fighting for equal treatment. Just two generations ago, our parents and our grandparents were banned from eating at certain restaurants, attending certain schools, and working in certain professions.
So it is not difficult to empathize with the struggle of immigrants in our country. Like our ancestors who migrated from the former slave states of the Deep South, millions of undocumented immigrants move to the United States each year to find work and a decent education for their children. But when they arrive, they are confronted with blatant discrimination and racial profiling -- with hardly any legal recourse and little public outrage.
As people of color, we have a responsibility to stand up for social justice whenever it is violated. That is why the NAACP has joined other civil rights and human rights organizations, including the Rights Working Group and the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights, to support comprehensive immigration reform.
As Dr. King said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. African Americans have spent much of our history fighting for fair treatment and equal opportunity. We must also offer support to our immigrant brothers and sisters. If we want to escape the sins of our past, we must ensure there are no second class families today. [The Huffington Post, 5/10/13]
African-Americans, Congressional Leaders Support Immigration Reform. The Congressional Black Caucus has expressed support for immigration reform, which Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has said parallels the fight for civil rights. According to a poll by Lake Research Partners commissioned by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 66 percent of African-Americans support immigration reform. In addition, African-American voters are credited with providing the “critical push” that was needed to help approve Maryland's “DREAM Act” referendum during the last election, which offers in-state tuition to undocumented students who want to attend college. At the time, 70 percent of black voters said they supported the “DREAM Act.” [Media Matters, 7/11/13]