In an important development on the immigration front this week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) classified for the first time the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) as a racist hate group. Long the leading national conservative voice on immigration, FAIR is consistently and enthusiastically embraced by the media, elected officials and others and is regularly sought out for TV interviews, position papers and official testimony before Congress for its views on immigration.
According to the SPLC report, FAIR is directly linked to known racist organizations and has even employed members of these organizations in key positions. From the report,
The group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR):
- is the creation of a man who operates a racist publishing company and has compared immigrants to “bacteria;”
- has employed members of white supremacist groups in key positions;
- has promoted racist conspiracy theories; and
- has accepted more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation devoted to eugenics and to proving a connection between race and IQ.
While accusations against FAIR and its members are nothing new, the recent classification comes at an important juncture for the immigrant rights movement. Failure to confront more aggressively the racist roots of what often passes for “immigration reform” leaves the movement wholly within the racially codified borders of the “legal” vs. “illegal” arguments of groups like FAIR and individuals like its radical founding Board member, John Tanton.
Rather than engage with groups and individuals that hide eugenicist and other extreme racist views behind suits and skirts, and “reports” and multimillion-dollar funding, some immigrant rights activists need to start refusing the deadly theatrics inherent in publicly “debating” against formerly fringe ideas and groups. A case in point is the most recent “debate” on “immigration reform”. Had they refused to engage legislators representing and/or influenced by FAIR, the Minutemen and their ilk, the “liberal reformers” might have avoided further legitimating and mainstreaming the racist, anti-immigrant positions of the formerly extreme right. That many mainstream “Americans” -including “liberal” and “progressive” “Americans”-now hold anti-immigrant views as a kind of de-racialized civic duty provides a powerful testament to the danger of dealing with extremists.
You cannot win a battle against faeries, hobgoblins or unicorns. We must adopt the position that we will no longer share panels, TV appearances and the like with certifiably racist groups like FAIR and the Minutemen. Let some other groups put their credibility in the service of the formerly extreme right. And, if the media or others insist on such appearances, then they too must be taken to task for lending their credibility to racist groups posing as “immigration reformers”.