Investigation Reveals the Deception Behind the Anti-Immigrant Movement

A new investigative report blows the lid off of FAIR, the nation's leading restrictionist group.

An investigative report by Village Voice Media has revealed the people and the organizations behind one of the nation’s most malicious movements to dehumanize immigrants.

The report starts in a place that has become uncomfortably familiar to many Americans – ground zero for the immigration debate – Phoenix, Arizona. Journalist Terry Greene Sterling describes a scene in which state Senator Russell Pearce is basting in the glow of national attention due to his passage of SB 1070.

Like many successful illegal-immigration populists,Russell Pearce gets his “hard costs of illegal immigration,” and his talking points, from theFederation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based, self-described public interest nonprofit founded in 1979.

For years, FAIR has issued reports detailing how illegal immigrants damage the economy, steal American jobs, sponge public benefits, and commit heinous crimes.

The nonprofit allies itself with other groups and activists who share FAIR’s point of view, and although FAIR takes a backseat at anti-illegal-immigration rallies, its presence is pervasive. At the June 5 rally in Phoenix, for instance, almost every speaker had ties to FAIR.

Thanks to grassroots organizing, Washington politicking, and faithful donors, FAIR has changed the immigration debate in the United States. It has successfully blocked progressive immigration reform, including what it calls “amnesty”—legalization of non-criminal undocumented immigrants (including magna cum laude college graduates) who have lived in the United States for decades.

Earlier this year, FAIR suffered a major blow to its carefully maintained reputation when the group’s president, Dan Stein, went on the Rachel Maddow show and lied to viewers about the group’s controversial background. The exhaustive Village Voice article is sure to have a similar effect. Not only does it call out FAIR, but also the organizations with which it’s closely tied.

FAIR and its sister nonprofits—NumbersUSA, which also lobbied successfully to squash immigration reform in 2007, and the Center for Immigration Studies, which refers to itself as a non-partisan pro-immigrant think tank—cite each other’s reports and studies and post each other’s findings on their Web sites.

Reporters often quote experts from the three groups as credible mainstream voices of dissent to progressive immigration reform, even though several human rights organizations have flagged FAIR, NumbersUSA, and CIS as white-nationalist hate groups.

Though these three groups maintain that the hate designations are arbitrary and untrue, the vitriolic rhetoric at the root of these organizations’ sensibilities scalds the ear.

“As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?” asked retired ophthalmologist Dr. John Tanton, founder of all three of these oft-cited groups.

The article even delves into the work of Kris Kobach and the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of FAIR, saying,

Arizona long has been an experimental legal laboratory for FAIR, a place to test increasingly harsh laws—2004′s Prop 200, the human-smuggling law, the employer-sanctions law, SB 1070, and the promised birthright-citizenship law.

The article later goes on to point out that if the past is any indication, Arizona may just “pass a birthright-citizenship law and then test it all the way to the Supreme Court at taxpayer expense. (Just like all the other Arizona immigration laws that FAIR has heartily supported.)”

Greene Sterling meticulously traces FAIR’s history from its current legislative projects back to its founder, John Tanton. Although the article describes Tanton as “articulate and friendly,” it concludes that, “Even today, John Tanton sees nothing wrong with associating with white nationalists. He says he doesn’t necessarily agree with them, but reaching out to them is part of his ’coalition building.’”

Perhaps the article’s most shocking discovery is not the controversial background of FAIR’s founder, but the depth of his network’s deception. The trick that FAIR and its counterparts have played on the American people will have long-term consequences for the nation’s moral fiber and its economic strength.

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