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FAIR-y Tales 

Wednesday, Dec 1 2010
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On June 5, hundreds rallied at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix in support of SB 1070, the harshest state immigration law in the nation, which had been signed by Governor Jan Brewer six weeks earlier.

The crowd of mostly middle-aged, working-class Anglos waved handmade signs blaring such things as:

"14 Million Jobless Americans; 13 Million Illegals, DO THE MATH, MR. PRESIDENT."

And:

"SB 1070 is not racist!"

It was a hot day. People were sunburned. Some wore American-flag shirts, American-flag baseball caps, or American-flag necklaces. Some carried American flags. They stood in the sun to hear a lineup of speakers deliver the same victory-themed message: Americans are under siege by hordes of illegal invaders who steal their jobs and suck up public benefits . . . and, in this economy, how much more can Americans be expected to endure?

The call-to-arms message: Enough is enough, rise up, get active, donate, vote, stop illegal immigration now — before it's too late.

The orators included black activist Ted Hayes ("Amnesty is racist. This country doesn't belong to anyone else but us"), Colonel Al Rodriguez ("Mexicans, you don't speak for me"), Terry Anderson, the now-deceased California radio talk-show host ("Jackpot babies"), NumbersUSA lobbyist Rosemary Jenks ("Amnesty destroys America"), immigration hardliner and soon-to-lose Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo ("Barack Obama . . . will open our borders"), and the self-professed author and sponsor of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, state Senator Russell Pearce.

Dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans, Pearce beamed as the crowd chanted gratitude for SB 1070: "Thank you, Russell. Thank you, Russell."

Pearce joked about how maybe Barack Obama himself didn't have papers.

Then he justified SB 1070 by reciting the "hard costs" of illegal immigration to Arizona taxpayers — $2.7 billion in a time of "high unemployment and record foreclosures."

Later, J.D. Hayworth, an immigration hardliner, former talk-show host, and U.S. Senate candidate who would soon be clobbered in the Republican primary by John McCain, began his $25-a-plate fundraising barbecue in the plaza.

Pearce and Tancredo, who are friends and political allies, were among the featured speakers at the Hayworth fundraiser. They enthused about what was to be Pearce's next legislative effort, in 2011, to challenge the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying American citizenship to Arizona babies born to undocumented parents.


Like many successful illegal-immigration populists, Russell Pearce gets his "hard costs of illegal immigration," and his talking points, from the Federation 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.

After it helped insert SB 1070 into the Arizona Revised Statutes, FAIR turned its attention to its favorite cause: "birthright citizenship" legislation that would challenge the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment gives citizenship to most babies born in the United States, and FAIR wants to change that so babies born to undocumented immigrant parents will be denied citizenship. Such children are derided as "jackpot babies" or "anchor babies."

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 legal arm of FAIR, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, lists Yale Law School grad Kris Kobach as its national constitutional law expert. Kobach was key in drafting SB 1070 and served as a legal adviser for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office until Andrew Thomas stepped down to run (unsuccesfully) for higher office and his replacement, Rick Romley, fired Kobach 's firm.

Now, Kobach is the newly elected Kansas secretary of state, where he faced criticism, during the race, for scaremongering by exaggerating voter fraud and linking it to immigrants.

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.

As each law hits the news, FAIR (and/or one or both of its sister organizations) issues neutrally worded reports portraying the undocumented as social and economic burdens. The studies point to the urgent need for passage of the immigration law in question.

In the wake of the passage of SB 1070, for instance, FAIR advanced to Fox News a copy of its new report on the alarming cost of illegal immigration in Arizona.

On May 17, Fox reported that "Arizona's illegal-immigrant population is costing the state's taxpayers even more than once thought — a whopping $2.7 billion, according to researchers at the public interest group that helped write the state's new immigration law."

The FAIR report helped galvanize support for SB 1070, and for its boosters, such as Pearce and Governor Jan Brewer, who told the Arizona Republic that she signed SB 1070 in part because she was "cognizant of what the impact of illegal immigration was doing to the state of Arizona in relation to cost."

About The Author

Terry Greene Sterling

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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