Federation for American Immigration Reform
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a non-profit tax exempt organization in the United States that advocates changes in U.S. immigration policy that they believe would result in significant reductions in immigration, both legal and illegal. It reports a membership of more than 1.3 million members and supporters, and has been called to testify before the United States Congressional committees on immigration bills.
FAIR is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and was founded on January 2, 1979 as the brainchild of Michigan surgeon and former president of Zero Population Growth John Tanton, former historian of labor movements and director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions Otis L. Graham, Jr. and the late Sidney Swensrud, who was a former chairman of Gulf Oil and governing board member of Planned Parenthood. The founding chairman, John Tanton, became leader of several anti-immigration groups after his previous decade of leadership roles in the National Audubon Society and the population committee of the Sierra Club. FAIR's first executive director was environmental lawyer Roger Conner. Other co-founders included feminist Sharon Barnes, philanthropists Jay Harris and Stewart Mott (of the Stewart R. Mott Foundation) and William Paddock, dean of Zamorano the Pan American School of Agriculture Dan Stein has been president of FAIR since 1988.
FAIR seeks a moratorium on net immigration by anyone other than refugees and the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, until it can be shown that higher immigration levels are needed. FAIR also believes that the perpetual economic and social growths in the United States are no longer sustainable at the current rate of the influx of immigrants into the country. Therefore, it argues that the country as a whole ought to devise policies which set limits on immigration and promote an environment for sustainable development.
FAIR identifies itself as a "group whose membership runs the gamut from liberal to conservative, [whose] grassroots networks help concerned citizens use their voices to speak up for effective, sensible immigration policies that work for America’s best interests". Its Board of Advisors has included individuals such as former Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and former Governor Richard Lamm (D-CO). The group promotes policies to improve border security and stop illegal immigration, and to reduce legal immigration into the United States to around 300,000 people a year. FAIR's policy studies emphasize the environmental, economic, and social effects of mass immigration. FAIR's President Dan Stein serves on the 61-member board of the Citizens' Debate Commission, a nonpartisan American organization formed in 2004, which was established to sponsor future general election presidential debates.
FAIR is a member of the Coalition for the Future American Worker, which describes itself as "an umbrella organization of professional trade groups, population/environment organizations, and immigration reform groups. CFAW was formed to represent the interests of American workers and students in the formulation of immigration policy."
FAIR advocates "7 Principles of True Comprehensive Immigration Reform":
- 1. End Illegal Immigration
- 2. No Amnesty or Mass Guest-Worker Program
- 3. Protect Wages and Standards of Living
- 4. Major Upgrade in Interior Enforcement, Led by Strong Employers Penalties
- 5. Stop Special Interest Asylum Abuse
- 6. An Immigration Time Out
- 7. Equal Under the Law
Influence and work
Through organizing private events and lobbying, the Federation for American Immigrant Reform has brought some impacts with regard to governmental policies including immigration and civil rights.
- Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, Senate Bill 1070: This bill, primarily written with the help Kris Kobach, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, and Kansas Secretary of State, is a controversial immigration law in Arizona. Kris Kobach is the leading expert on the constitutional law in the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Critics of the legislation said it would encourage racial profiling, while supporters argued that the law prohibits the use of race as the sole basis for investigating immigration status. The law was modified by Arizona House Bill 2162 within a week of its signing with the goal of addressing some of these concerns. There were protests in opposition to the law in over 70 U.S. cities, including boycotts and calls for boycotts of Arizona. Polling had found the law to have majority support in Arizona and nationwide. The passage of the measure has prompted other states to consider adopting similar legislation. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. It was scheduled to go into effect on July 29, 2010, ninety days after the end of the legislative session. Legal challenges over its constitutionality and compliance with civil rights law were filed, including one by the United States Department of Justice that also asked for an injunction against enforcement of the law. The day before the law was to take effect, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the law's most controversial provisions.
- On December 12, 2011, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to hear the case. The court heard oral arguments for this case on April 25, 2012. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, presumably because while she was the United States Solicitor General, she defended the federal government's position in this case under the Obama administration.
- In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case Arizona v. United States, upholding the provision requiring immigration status checks during law enforcement stops but striking down three other provisions as violations of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. The majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy and was joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito each concurred in part and dissented in part in separate opinions joined by no other justice. Justice Kennedy's majority opinion held that Sections 3, 5(C), and 6 were preempted by federal law. The three provisions struck down: required legal immigrants to carry registration documents at all times; allowed state police to arrest any individual for suspicion of being an illegal immigrant; and made it a crime for an illegal immigrant to search for a job (or to hold one) in the state.
- Protect Arizona Now, Proposition 200: In 2004, the Federation for American Immigration Reform cooperated with the group called Protect Arizona Now in order to support the passage of Proposition 200, which shares the similarities with California’s Proposition 187 in which illegal aliens are restricted from public benefits and voting because they are most likely unable to provide the required proof of citizenship. It also made the crime of a public official not reporting illegal status a class 2 misdemeanor.
- End Sanctuary Cities Policy: After the shooting incidence in the summer of 2015 when Kathryn Steinle was killed by an undocumented immigrant, Francisco Sanchez, in San Francisco, the Federation for American Immigrant Reform organized the "End Sanctuary Cities" movement, arguing that the Federal government should end the sanctuary cities policy because the influx of illegal immigrants is the fundamental cause of criminal activities in the United States. Sanctuary cities including San Francisco are the jurisdictions where illegal immigrants are protected from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Through lobbying in Washington D.C, and actively promoting its ideas on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, FAIR is calling for the Federal government's denial of federal funds to sanctuary jurisdictions and amendment of IIRIRA Section 642 that hampers the collection of immigration information from immigrants in the United States.
- Suing the Obama Administration for crime rate records: In 2016, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the affiliated group of FAIR, "filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking records from the Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning illegal alien crime rates." IRLI argues that Obama Administration is intentionally unwilling to debunk data regarding illegal alien crime rates in order to continue to promote the administration's so-called "no-border policies." It also maintains in its research paper that "every crime illegal aliens commit in the U.S. was potentially preventable if the illegal alien had been identified." A statistical study on criminal rates by Tim Wadsworth also points out that immigration is correlated with a "9.3 percent...decline in homicide rates, and that growth in total immigration was, on average, responsible for 22.2 percent of the decrease in robbery.  This lawsuit filing with a series of other local community events organized by IRLI aims at raising the public awareness regarding the adverse effect of illegal immigration.
FAIR has created several affiliated groups in order to maximize its effectiveness . In 1987, FAIR founded the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) which claims that the rights, privileges, and property of U.S. citizens are threatened by immigration. In 2004, FAIR also established the FAIR Congressional Task Force (FCTF) as a 501(c)(4) organization who believe that promoting public welfare requires drastic restrictions on legal immigration. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) was spun off from FAIR in 1985.
Although FAIR describes itself as nonpartisan and Georgie Anne Geyer, author of Americans No More: The Death of Citizenship, describes FAIR as a "highly respected group", FAIR has been criticized repeatedly as politically conservative. According to Andrew Wroe, a lecturer in American Politics and author of The Republican Party and Immigration Politics, the recent activities of FAIR show the evidences why FAIR can be viewed as an extremist group. For instance, under John Tanton's leadership, FAIR received charitable donations of $1.2 million between 1983 and 1994 from the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to "improving the character of the American people" by promoting the practice of eugenics, or selective breeding. The Pioneer Fund was also described by the Sunday Telegraph as a "neo-Nazi organization closely integrated with the far right in American politics" in 1989. FAIR has responded to this criticism by asserting that the Fund clearly states that it supports equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, national origin, or ethnicity; that other major institutions, including universities and medical facilities in the United States and other countries, have also accepted grants from the Fund; and that the Fund's contributions to FAIR were used only for the general operation of the organization. Tanton's activities are documented in 17 file boxes of archives he donated to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. Other FAIR organization records are stored at the Special Collections Research Center at the George Washington University.
In December 2007, FAIR was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). SPLC accused leaders of FAIR of meeting with leaders of the Belgian Nationalist group Vlaams Belang which had been condemned by the Belgian Court of Cassation for violations of the law against racism. According to SPLC, FAIR and Vlaams Belang share a common notion of Nativism, a political viewpoint that supports restrictions on Immigration. Studies on the association between individuals' perceptions on immigration and Nativism by Sebastian Normandin and D. Schneider reveal that the majority of supporters for Anti-Immigration often believe that the reckless inflow of immigrants to their motherland should be controlled in order to maintain the stability in society. FAIR has responded to this charge by stating that there is no factual basis for the accusation; that FAIR has compiled a long record of mainstream credibility and respect on immigration issues and has always opposed discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion; and that the accusation is an "act of desperation, resulting from the SPLC's failure to convince the American people of their viewpoint." FAIR president Dan Stein said of the SPLC, "They've decided to engage in unsubstantiated, invidious name-calling, smearing millions of people in this movement who simply want to see the law enforced and, frankly, lower levels of immigration".
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