Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Calling Out FAIR: Lobbyists Descend At A Hate Group’s Bidding

[Cross-posed at Firedoglake.]

For years, the Federation for American Immigration Reform has gotten away with posing as a mainstream immigration-reform organization. The mask has finally started to slip off the façade, thanks in no small part to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s devastating report on FAIR last year in which it was finally designated what we’ve known it to be all along: a hate group.

One of the main events involved in FAIR’s charade has been its annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” gathering of lobbyists, who then descend up on congressmen and legislators and their staffers to push their decidedly xenophobic brand of immigration “reform.” This year, CNN’s Lou Dobbs is even broadcasting from the event.

Well, turnabout is only, er, fair play. So this year, organizations seeking progressive immigration reform are holding FAIR’s feet to the fire – along with all the lobbyists and talk-show hosts participating. They’re running an ad campaign pointing out FAIR’s long history of indulging and promoting a frankly xenophobic and frequently outright racist campaign against immigrants.

The WaPo’s Mary Ann Akers reports:
The ad, paid for by America’s Voice and the Service Employees International Union, among others, asks, "When Did Extreme Become Mainstream?" And it notes FAIR has been "designated as a HATE GROUP by the Southern Poverty Law Center."
The ad includes three racially explosive quotes; one from John Tanton, founder of FAIR, saying, "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?" FAIR president Dan Stein is quoted saying, "Should we subsidizing people with low IQs to have as many children as possible?" Another quote in the ad, attributed to former Colorado governor Richard Lamm, a former FAIR advisory board chairman, says: "New cultures [in the U.S. are] diluting what we are and who we are."
America’s Voice has a complete rundown on FAIR.

Does anyone want to wager on whether Dobbs will mention the SPLC’s hate-group designation? Or whether, if he does, he’ll dismiss them again as an “open borders advocacy group” – even though the SPLC in fact has never taken any position on either border security or immigration policy generally?

UPDATE: FAIR responds:
WASHINGTON, Sept 09, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — Having been unable to convince the American public that a mass illegal alien amnesty was justified or served any public interest, advocates for amnesty have launched an orchestrated and well-financed campaign to smear the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and others involved in defeating last year’s immigration bill. Using full-page ads in today’s editions of The Politico and Roll Call, this coalition of special interest groups uses inflammatory language and stock photos of individuals who have no association with FAIR to incite hatred against anyone who has the audacity to oppose their views on immigration policy. The tone and content of these ads demonstrates that their strategy to silence proponents of immigration reform has resulted in the ugliest and most negative public relations campaign in the history of American politics.

Instead of seeking to promote rational, intelligent, meaningful dialogue on immigration reform, one of the most important issues facing our nation today, the ad utterly distorts FAIR’s 30-year record of advocacy on immigration reform and merely parrots previous distortions. La Raza has claimed that one in seven Americans (which equals 45 million people) are members of hate or extremist groups. In fact, considering how many Americans oppose amnesty and support the enforcement of our immigration laws, this coalition might want to consider whether they wouldn’t simply save themselves time and money and simply call the American public in whole a hate group.

The ad’s sponsors have also forgotten to disclose their own political and economic interests in the immigration debate. Each of the organizations responsible for placing the ads invested heavily in failed lobbying efforts to pass the 2007 Senate amnesty bill. In the first half of 2007, America’s Voice alone spent $420,000; the National Council of La Raza spent $340,000. During the whole of 2007, SEIU spent over half a million dollars lobbying Congress on immigration and other issues.

In contrast to today’s ads that employ vitriolic language and images, any earnest attempt to investigate FAIR will reveal 30 years of consistent advocacy for changes to our legal and illegal immigration policies that make the interests of the American people paramount, not an afterthought. FAIR supports overall reductions in immigration levels in order to avert massive U.S. population growth. We seek to protect American workers against the erosion of the jobs and wages due to policies that flood our labor markets. We oppose immigration policies that strain vital public services, such as education and health care. FAIR favors securing unguarded borders that are an open invitation not only to illegal workers, but to criminals and terrorists. FAIR has testified before Congress on these issues about 100 times over the years and has been a source of information, analysis and commentary to every major newspaper and media outlet in the United States.

FAIR’s record is equally consistent with regard to how this nation should treat immigrants. Unlike our critics who seek to blur important distinctions, FAIR distinguishes clearly between immigration policy – which can and should be debated like any other public policy – and immigrants who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. We believe that immigrants to our country should be admitted based on their individual merits, without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, or country of origin, and should be welcomed and integrated into the mainstream of American society. Finally, FAIR is one of only 155 charities nationwide – and the only immigration-related nonprofit – to be accredited by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

Does this ugly ad campaign reflect the tone of change we are to expect from the new wave of political operatives we can expect to descend on Washington at the end of this year? After all, isn’t a change from the nasty, divisive rhetoric of Washington what the American public is demanding? If it is, the state of public discourse in the U.S. truly is at a new low. FAIR stands by its record and we call upon all Americans to reject the blatant attempt on the part of a small coalition of radical organizations to halt meaningful debate about one of the most important public policy issues of our time.
Notice what’s missing: Any mention of the actual facts in the article. The only thing that’s "ugly" is the very real quotes from FAIR leaders and officials. Moreover, its listing as a hate group by the SPLC — which is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a "radical organization" — goes utterly unmentioned.

Memo to FAIR: It isn’t a "smear" by definition if everything that’s said is true.

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