Profiles on the Right: Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

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The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is an anti-immigrant group founded in 1979 and is currently the United State’s largest 501c(3) immigration reform organization. According to their website, FAIR has more than 250,000 members nationwide. While they work hard to maintain a front of moderation and legitimacy, claiming to be “a non-partisan group whose members run the gamut from liberal to conservative,” their nativist and xenophobic ideologies are well documented. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled FAIR a hate group because of the group’s white nationalist ideology.

Founded in 1979 by John Tanton in Washington D.C., one of FAIR’s main goals is to overturn the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) of 1965. The INA ended a decades-long racist quota system that limited immigration to mostly While Northern Europeans. Current FAIR President Dan Stein has called INA “a key mistake in national policy” and “a source of error.”

FAIR has received criticism over the years for its links to eugenicists and white supremacists. Garrett Hardin, a now deceased biologist and board member of FAIR wrote in his 1968 paper “Tragedy of the Commons” that “[the] freedom to breed is intolerable.” Current board member Donald A. Collins frequently writes for, an anti-immigration site. In the infamous 1988 “WITAN memos”, published in the Arizona Republic, founder John Tanton warned of the “Latin onslaught” in America and the low “educatability” of Latinos. He also expressed concern that the Catholic Church would capitalize on the faith of Latinos to exert more political influence in the U.S. FAIR has also come under fire for taking grant money from the Pioneer Fund, a controversial nonprofit organization who share FAIR’s eugenicist ideologies. FAIR frequently promotes The Social Contract Press, a press program that routinely publishes race-baiting articles written by white nationalists, founded by John Tanton in 1990.

Despite the numerous criticisms and controversies surrounding FAIR, the group remains an influential player in immigration politics. FAIR was a key advocate for the defeat of the DREAM Act, a widely supported bipartisan bill which would have provided a path to citizenship for young immigrants who were raised in America. In the debate surrounding the DREAM Act, FAIR president Dan Stein was often quoted in the mainstream media and made appearances on Fox News Latino. The FAIR website claims “FAIR spokespersons are interviewed regularly on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, in the New York Times, USA Today, hundreds of radio stations, and in hundreds of other newspapers, magazines and websites annually.”

FAIR releases studies, op-eds, and statistics on immigration that are frequently misleading or wrong, and their content is often quickly debunked. This does not stop conservative pundits and publications like The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, and Politico from using their content.

A recent report, released by FAIR in October, 2013, titled “Republicans Have an Immigration Problem,” combines extensive economic and demographic data with opinion research to prove that “Republicans are having problems expanding their voting base because the U.S. immigration system brings in individuals who are less-educated, less-skilled, and low-income.” Implicit throughout the report is the notion that Latino people are less educated and more dependent on welfare, and therefore drawn to the Democrats’ platform. The report also posits that “Hispanic voters do not vote based on immigration, they vote their pocketbooks.” Citing one of their favorite immigration reform talking points, the report asserts the U.S. should shift immigration policy “to a skills-based model. This will convert our immigration population frmo one that tends to affiliate with the Democratic party [Latinos and other minorities], to one that—over time—is more receptive to core Republican messages [White people].” This kind of thinly veiled white nationalist ideology is representative of both FAIR’s successful “moderateness,” and their obvious racism.

As of the late 2000s, FAIR and their legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), have become more active in pushing anti-immigration laws at the state and local level. IRLI attorney Kris Kobach helped draft Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, which was signed in April 2010. The bill forced police officers to detain individuals who they suspected to be in the country illegally, and made it a misdemeanor for non-citizens to fail to carry immigration papers. In 2012, three of the bill’s four provisions were invalidated, but that has not stopped Kobach and the IRLI from working to pass similar laws in Texas, Pennsylvania, and other localities. FAIR and IRLI are also working to end the birthright citizenship provision in the 14th Amendment.

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