Beck told me the campaign to tie his group to racism has been personally hurtful. He believes that keeping immigrants out benefits African American and Latino citizens by increasing jobs and wages. "The fact is, after 17 years, if any of that [racism] has anything to do with us, it ought to show up in NumbersUSA," he said. "If we really are dealing with these other things we're supposed to have guilt-by-association with, surely there would be something that we've done or said or written that would indicate it. Otherwise, these people who are supposedly using us for a conspiracy -- they are not getting very much for their money."
The accusations, Beck said, have "served to put a lot of nasty things on the Internet," but he insists they have not succeeded in blunting the group's effectiveness. "We are not aware of a single member of Congress that it has disrupted a relationship with or made it harder for us to deal with," he said. "Most of them just wave it off."
Record of Success
It was 2007, and the congressional fight over then-President George W. Bush's immigration-reform push was coming to a head. NumbersUSA orchestrated a calling and faxing offensive so massive it overloaded the Senate switchboard. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who remains the most vocal opponent of immigration reform, memorialized the blitz with a statement in the Congressional Record last year:
The big lobbies pulled out all the stops, spent millions of dollars, and bore down hard in their push for mass amnesty. But Goliath fell to the grassroots David, whose faxes, e-mails, rallies, visits to our offices, and phone calls registered the clear message that the American people would not accept Washington rewarding lawbreaking. The overwhelming grassroots response actuated by the NumbersUSA coalition was most evident when citizens called Capitol Hill in such volume that it shut down the Senate's telephone system.
Long before Howard Dean and Barack Obama, NumbersUSA was at the forefront of using the Internet for political activism. Founded in 1996, the group soon stumbled upon a new technology that allowed faxes to be sent over the Internet. "In 1997 we started political faxing, and the rest is history," Beck said. Practically every day, the group's millions of members get chatty updates by email. And with the click of a button they can send a fax -- a technology that, though largely antiquated, still prevails on Capitol Hill.
When you sign up online to join NumbersUSA, entering your name and home address, a fax is automatically sent in your name to the White House, your two senators, your member of Congress and your state's governor. This is what it says:
I oppose the Senate Gang of Eight's amnesty proposal to legalize millions of illegal immigrants in a time of budget deficit crisis and high unemployment. Combined with current laws, the legalization would be a pathway to massive new welfare expenditures, job competition, chain migration and more illegal immigration.
1. It would cost trillions of dollars in extra government spending on social services.
2. It would immediately put millions of illegal aliens in front of the employment line to hold or take U.S. jobs while 20 million Americans who want a full-time job can't find one.
3. It would allow amnestied aliens to begin endless chains of relatives to come and add further competition for jobs and government resources.
4. It would immediately legalize 11 million illegal aliens without requiring triggers that fully implement enforcement first. The previous seven amnesties between 1986 and 2000 had no enforcement triggers and served only to entice 11 million new illegal immigrants who now demand their own amnesty.
NumbersUSA originally took its inspiration from the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, a bipartisan panel created in 1990 to make recommendations about the American immigration system. Chaired by Barbara Jordan, a civil-rights heroine and former Democratic congresswoman from Texas, the group, often called the "Jordan Commission," issued its findings in 1996. It called for sharply curtailing immigration levels, increasing border enforcement, and cracking down on employers who hired the undocumented.