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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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