What I suggested in my comment on Monday August 6, namely that the mass shooting last Sunday at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin had all the earmarks of a hate crime inspired by white racism against South Asians (possibly mistaken for Muslims) has now been confirmed by reliable newspaper reports. A story in the Tuesday, August 7 Washington Post provides full details about the more than decade-long association between the alleged killer, Wade Michael Page, and white supremacist rock bands. These have been decribed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an "underworld of white supremacist music".
The WP story quotes Mark Potok of the SPLC as saying that Page was not a fringe player, but was well known on the scene and played in some of the best known bands.
How could someone with this background, which the SPLC had been tracking since 2000 according to the WP, been able to obtain guns, including, allegedly, a semi-automatic weapon? But this aspect of America's dark side is a separate issue. The main question for immigrants and immigrant rights advocates now is: how much influence do white supremacist hate groups have over attitudes toward immigration and immigration policy today?
Direct influence by white supremacist hate groups over immigration policy no doubt exists. The SPLC has been tracking the activities of these groups and their connections with various political figures, and I refer to its website for further details. Every immigration advocate should become familiar with them. But what is more insidious is the way in which the white supremacist movement may be poisoning the atmosphere for immigration policy decisions among the general public and its elected representatives.
Leaving aside the issue of America's estimated 12 million or so unauthorized immigrants, and focusing on the legal immigration side, skilled, well educated IT professionals with legal visas from countries such as India and China are being made scapegoats for America's economic and other problems just as much as, or even more than, janitors, busboys or farm workers who come from Mexico without permission.
What could possibly have been going on in the minds of our Senators and Representatives in Congress when they authorized stratospherically high H-1B and L-1 filing fees for certain companies which employ significant numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers? What kind of response to public ignorance and prejudice might have led to the notorious USCIS memo relating to off site H-1B workers in 2010?
Even more urgently, what kind of negative public attitudes may have influenced the Faustian bargain made by the sponsors of HR 3012, which might give some relief on immigrant visa waiting periods to applicants from India and China, but at the risk of destroying the entire H-1B system? Why are there so many RFE's and denials for clearly meritorious professional worker petitions?
Up to now, few people have drawn any connection between these devolpments and the influence of certain rock bands and their followers on public attitudes toward immigration. Maybe it is now time to broaden our thinking.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.