David Horowitz Tackles Immigration
David Horowitz, the former left wing anti-Vietnam War activist turned right wing provocateur/entrepreneur, is taking a brief hiatus from bashing anti-Iraq war activists and making America's campuses safe from “anti-patriotic” liberal academics, turning his attention to the politics of immigration. On Friday, August 26, his Center for the Study of Popular Culture co-sponsored, along with the Washington DC-based anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Coalition for Immigration Reform of California, a daylong conference on immigration and related issues.
The conference, which “focus[ed] on the impact of Illegal Immigration on America relating to issues of: national security, the economy, society and politics,” was held at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.
“I don't recall Horowitz's name popping up before around immigration issues,” Devin Burghart, who monitors anti-immigrant movements with the Illinois-based human rights group, the Center for New Community's Building Democracy Initiative, told me in a telephone interview from his Chicago office. “But he is politically savvy and smart enough to know that immigration is the hottest issue inside the GOP these days.”
“Horowitz gets crazier by the day,” Mark Potok, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, told me via telephone. “That's reflected on his website where today (August 18), it featured an article labeling Cindy Sheehan as an ‘American Nazi Idol.’” In addition, on a recent appearance on MSNBC, Horowitz described Sheehan, whose son Army Spc. Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq in April 2004, as “hateful” for setting up an encampment outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas and demanding to meet with him.
“As far as I know,” said Potok, “this is Horowitz's first venture into the world of immigration politics. I think he is getting involved because the issue now has huge resonance with the American public, which is reflected in the growth of the Minutemen and Minuteman-like groups around the country.” In light of this growth, the SPLC recently launched Immigration Watch, a weekly newsletter covering extremism in the anti-immigration movement.
“Horowitz is on to something, and so are many neoconservatives who are trying to reconnect with the backlash politics of the populist right,” Tom Barry, policy director of the Silver City, New Mexico-based International Relations Center, told me via a series of e-mails. “By co-sponsoring a national conference focusing on anti-immigration organizing and policy advocacy, Horowitz is saying that immigration issues should be brought to the forefront of the right's political agenda.”
The conference's line-up included “a fairly standard group of FAIR and FAIR-related notables,” Mark Potok pointed out. “Interestingly enough, he has paired up with Congressman Tom Tancredo who, like Horowitz, has repeatedly expressed anti-Muslim sentiments.”
Rep. Tancredo (R-CO) is an outspoken anti-immigration activist who heads up the House Immigration Reform Caucus and has been a major player in Congress on immigration issues. Other Congressional members signed up for the conference were Steve King (R-IA), whose website claims that he is a “committed fiscal and social conservative” who sponsored the English as the Official Language Bill and The God and Country Bill, and California Republican Congressman, Ed Royce, who under the category of “Civil Rights” on his website lists votes in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag desecration, as well as votes to ban gay adoptions in Washington DC, and in favor of an amendment prohibiting burning the US flag.
One of the speakers that garnered buzz was Jim Gilchrist, a co-founder of The Minuteman Project, who came to the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel from having spent part of April patrolling the US-Mexico border. (Coming off its April activities, the Minutemen recently announced plans to organize 15,000 volunteers to guard the US / Mexico and US / Canada borders starting October 1.) Gilchrist is currently weighing a run -- as an independent candidate -- for the vacated House seat of Christopher Cox, recently confirmed as the new Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Speaking on the national security implications of immigration were Heather Mac Donald, a John M. Olin fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute who specializes in security-related issues; Frank Gaffney, the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, who has been a frequent guest on cable television's talking head programs advocating and defending President Bush's War on Iraq; and Janice Kephart, a former counsel to 9/11 Commission and a senior consultant for The Investigative Project, which is founded and headed by anti-terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson -- Kephart is working on a project about the “structure of Al Qaeda and Militant Islamic Terrorist Groups in the United States.”
Academics included George Borjas, the Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and the author of Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton University Press, 1999) and Otis Graham, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who, according to his website, is currently Visiting Scholar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
And veteran radio talk show hosts Doug McIntyre, of McIntyre in the Morning, on Talk Radio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, and James Edwards, of The Political Cesspool Radio Program, aired Monday through Friday on AM 1380 in Memphis, Tennessee, were invited to crank up the volume.
Bush's immigration plan appears to be going nowhere in Congress. “Clearly, Horowitz is breaking with President Bush on this issue as Bush's opinion on immigration becomes less important every day,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok.
“Anti-immigrant forces have long been a politically marginalized sector,” said the International Relations Center's Tom Barry. “Although finding some sympathizers among mid-Western and Western Republican congressional representatives, they have until recently been scorned by Republican Party leaders. Anti-immigration populists have long focused their fury -- aside from the immigrants themselves -- on what they call the Open Borders Lobby.”
“Horowitz has lately joined in criticizing the Open Borders Lobby. However, for him and other neoconservatives, this lobby consists solely of leftist radicals and the liberal establishment, particularly the Ford Foundation. Left out of their critique is Corporate America, which the populist right has long considered the central force in the so-called open borders lobby,” Barry maintains.
“If Horowitz and other neoconservatives are successful, their new association with the anti-immigration forces will produce an expanding political constituency for the Republican Party -- one that focuses on progressives, liberals, and civil rights advocates as the lobby that is supposedly causing the country to lose control of its borders and be overridden by terrorists and non-citizens.”
Interestingly enough, “Horowitz and other neoconservative critics of the open borders lobby do not insist that anti-immigration forces share the entire agenda of the neoconservatives -- such as Middle East policies, the War on Iraq, or support for Corporate America.” “Instead,” Barry pointed out, “they see the rising anti-immigration movement as a new base constituency in their long-term strategy to bury the left and the Democratic Party.”
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.
Other Recent Articles by Bill Berkowitz
Horowitz Tackles Immigration