Little-Known Group Claims a Win on Immigration (and promotes officialization of English

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Jul 15 13:57:52 UTC 2007

July 15, 2007
Little-Known Group Claims a Win on Immigration

WASHINGTON, July 14 When a comprehensive immigration bill collapsed last
month on the Senate floor, it was a victory for a small group that had
been lobbying Congress for a decade to reduce the number of immigrants
legal and illegal in the United States. The group, Numbers USA, tracked
every twist and turn of the bill. Its members flooded the Senate with more
than a million faxes, sent through the organizations Web site. It supplied
arguments and information to senators opposing the bill. It was a
David-and-Goliath struggle, said Roy H. Beck, the president of Numbers
USA, who had been preparing for this moment since 1996, when he wrote a
book titled The Case Against Immigration.

Supporters of the bill included President Bush, the United States Chamber
of Commerce, the high-tech industry, the Roman Catholic Church, many
Hispanic organizations, farmers, restaurants, hotels and the construction
industry. The bill had support from the opinion elite in this country, Mr.
Beck said. But we built a grass-roots army, consumed with passion for a
cause, and used the power of the Internet to go around the elites and
defeat a disastrous amnesty bill. The measure, which died on June 28,
would have offered legal status and a path to citizenship to millions of
illegal immigrants and created a new temporary worker program while
increasing border security.

Numbers USA initiated and turbocharged the populist revolt against the
immigration reform package, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the
National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy group. Roy Beck takes
people who are upset about illegal immigration for different reasons,
including hostility to Latino immigrants, and disciplines them so their
message is based on policy rather than race-based arguments or xenophobia.
Representative Brian P. Bilbray, Republican of California and chairman of
the Immigration Reform Caucus, said, Were involved in weekly discussions
with Numbers USA and other immigration-control groups as part of a team
effort. Numbers USA had fewer than 50,000 members at the end of 2004, but
now counts more than 447,000, with an increase of 83 percent since January

Turning to the next phase of the debate, those members will push for
enforcement of existing laws and new measures to curb the employment of
illegal immigrants. Our No. 1 legislative goal is to begin a system of
mandatory workplace verification, to confirm that every employee is a
United States citizen or an alien authorized to work in this country, said
Rosemary E. Jenks, director of government relations at Numbers USA. The
organization wants to reduce immigration as Mr. Beck says in the subtitle
of his book for moral, economic, social and environmental reasons.

He contends that immigrants and their children are driving population
growth, which he says is gobbling up open space, causing urban sprawl and
creating more traffic congestion. Moreover, Mr. Beck asserts that
immigrants and temporary workers, by increasing the supply of labor, have
depressed wages in industries from meatpacking to information technology.
Numbers USA has worked most closely with conservative Republicans, but in
recent weeks has built alliances with Democrats who share the concern.
Numbers USA keeps a scorecard showing every vote by every member of
Congress on immigration-related issues since 1989. The group assigns a
letter grade to each member.

Lawmakers who received an A-plus were all Republicans and included
Representatives J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Tom Tancredo of
Colorado, a presidential candidate. The lowest grades F-minuses went to
Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Joe Baca of
California, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Numbers USA
objects to proposals that increase the number of legal or illegal
immigrants. It steers clear of debates over the allocation of visas. It
does not matter to us whether a visa goes to a high-tech worker, a farm
worker or the sibling of a U.S. citizen, Mr. Beck said.

Numbers USA is one of many organizations fostered by John H. Tanton, an
ophthalmologist from Michigan who has also championed efforts to protect
the environment, limit population growth and promote English as an
official language. Critics like the Southern Poverty Law Center and
Representative Chris Cannon, Republican of Utah, have described Dr. Tanton
as a father of the anti-immigration movement. Mark A. Potok, a senior
researcher at the law center, called Numbers USA the kinder, gentler side
of that movement. Mr. Beck said Numbers USA had been independent of Dr.
Tanton since 2002.  On the groups Web site, Mr. Beck cautions against
immigrant bashing and says, Even illegal aliens deserve humane treatment
as they are detected, detained and deported.

In the fight over the Senate bill, Numbers USA had daily conference calls
with conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Eagle Forum.
For tax purposes, Numbers USA has two arms, an educational foundation and
an advocacy group that lobbies Congress. Together, Mr. Beck said, they
have a budget of $3 million this year, but will probably raise and spend
$4.5 million. Mr. Beck said that in the past the group received about
two-thirds of its money from foundations like the Colcom Foundation of
Pittsburgh and the Weeden Foundation in New York. Many of these
foundations have an interest in conservation.

Numbers USA has raised the rest of its money from individual contributors
over the Internet. The group collects detailed information on its members
their ethnic background, politics, religious affiliations, occupations and
concerns so it can choose the most effective advocates on any particular
issue. In a survey question on religion, the group said the information
would be useful because many lawmakers were likely to respond better to
people with a very similar religious worldview. This is our citizen army,
Mr. Beck said, pointing to a map that showed members of his group in every
Congressional district.


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