Anti-Immigrant Groups Launch Media Campaign Pitting Immigrants Against Unemployed Americans

On October 18, an ad by NumbersUSA, the anti-immigration group with white nationalist ties run by Roy Beck, aired during CNN's coverage of the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas. In the ad, NumbersUSA pitted immigrants against Americans, blaming legal immigrants for high unemployment among Americans, especially minorities. It featured a diverse group of people taking turns saying:

The immigration debate should not be about the color of people's skin, or their country of origin, or their religion, or where their grandparents were born. The debate should be about the numbers. Should Congress give work permits to 1 million new legal immigrants again this year when 20 million Americans of all colors, national origins, and religions are having trouble finding jobs? Immigration, it's about the numbers. The numbers. The numbers. Tell Congress at

In a post at National Review Online touting the ad, Mark Krikorian asked: “Is the issuance of green cards to more than 1 million legal immigrants per year (plus hundreds of thousands of 'temporary' workers) a good idea when we have 9 percent unemployment?”

A similar ad by anti-immigration group Californians for Population Stabilization aired during MSNBC's coverage of the September 7 Republican presidential debate. It also blamed immigrants for the fact that millions of Americans “are unable to find a job.” This claim is still not true, as we noted at the time. Yet anti-immigrants persist in using it to stoke xenophobic sentiment.

And that's the message behind this ad campaign.

NumbersUSA was founded by controversial activist John Tanton, "the anti-immigration crusader" who "spent decades at the heart of the white nationalist movement." The New York Times shed light on some of Tanton's extremisim, reporting:

“One of my prime concerns,” he wrote to a large donor, “is about the decline of folks who look like you and me.” He warned a friend that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has referred to Roy Beck as Tanton's “heir apparent.” Beck has also been an editor of Tanton's journal, The Social Contract, which, according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR), “has repeatedly served as a platform for white nationalists.” The journal devoted its most recent issue to trying to paint immigrants as criminals.

The strategy of NumbersUSA remains championing policies that result in mass deportation of immigrants or pushing those that render life here difficult for immigrants so that they will self-deport. Both NumbersUSA and CAPS are part of an immigration network that includes several organizations that have been identified as “hate groups.”

It seems that these groups have turned from demonizing undocumented immigrants, however, to attacking legal immigrants. IREHR, an organization that strives for social and economic justice and “a truly multi-racial, multicultural democracy and individual human rights,” heralded this perceived shift when the nativist ad from CAPS aired on MSNBC. With this newest ad from NumbersUSA, it appears conservative media figures are following suit.

In his NRO post titled, “But How Much Legal Immigration?” Krikorian argued for limiting “chain migration” and “get[ting] rid of the egregious visa lottery.” Krikorian has previously stated that "[w]e don't actually need immigration," saying:

“Our take on it is really that a modern society has no need for any immigration. ... ”We don't actually need immigration. Our land is settled, we're a post-industrial society."


“The idea that immigration -- which was an important element of the second half of the 19th century in forming who we are as a country now -- is somehow essential to our sense of self indefinitely into the future just strikes me as anachronistic and incorrect.”

And just two days ago, MSNBC's Pat Buchanan again suggested “a moratorium on immigration.”

What seems lost in all of this nativist dogma, however, is the impact immigrants make to the economy. A study by the Fiscal Policy Institute shows that “while immigrants constitute just over a third of [New York City's] population, they make up nearly half of the city's small-business owners.” That study complemented another from the Small Business Administration that found that “across the country, immigrants are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business than are nonimmigrants.”

Indeed, as The Atlantic reported in June, “Foreign-born founders and entrepreneurs stand behind anywhere from a third to a half of Silicon Valley high-tech startups, and comprise huge shares of computer scientists and software engineers.”