The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

The FAIR Files: ‘Criminals, Homosexuals and Defectives’

By Heidi Beirich on May 28, 2010 - 8:41 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is an immigration restriction organization that insists that it does not “discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, or creed.” But many have questioned that claim since revelations that FAIR’s legal arm essentially wrote the highly controversial Arizona law that critics say is certain to lead to racial profiling of Latinos.

Now comes another clue to the true nature of the organization behind the Arizona statute, which requires law enforcement officials to verify the immigration status of people they come into contact with if there is reasonable suspicion that they are in the country illegally. Critics, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, have pointed out the law will lead to Latinos, including U.S. citizens, being repeatedly questioned by police and forced to continually prove their status.

FAIR files archived in the Gelman Library at George Washington University include a Jan. 9, 1990, note from Sidney Rawitz, then a board member of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), FAIR’s legal arm. Rawitz, who once served as counsel to the government’s Immigration and Naturalization Service, was reacting angrily to an apparently overly favorable news story discussing the Cubans who came to Miami in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift. Rawitz was writing to Richard “Dick” Higgins, who was then IRLI’s executive director.

“What infuriates me most about this article is the use of Marielitos as examples of beneficial immigration,” Rawitz wrote to the IRLI leader. “There are facts and statistics galore about the criminals, homosexuals and defectives whom Castro visited upon this country when he opened up Mariel. Prisons, hospitals, and welfare rolls are heavily burdened by this influx — as you well know.”

Quite apart from Rawitz’s eyebrow-raising description of “criminals, homosexuals and defectives” — a phrase eerily reminiscent of the Nazis’ descriptions of their own enemies — the note revealed a high level of ignorance on the IRLI board member’s part a full decade after the boatlift. Although there was much publicity during the boatlift suggesting that the Marielitos were serious criminals being dumped in the United States by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the reality is that only about 2%, or some 2,746, of the 125,000 refugees were ultimately determined to be serious or violent criminals. Large numbers, in fact, were simply people who disagreed with aspects of the Castro regime. Economist David Carr also found that the boatlift entailed no negative effect on wages for any groups in Miami.

In recent years, IRLI has been active in helping to write anti-immigrant legislation for both states and localities. IRLI attorney Kris Kobach was a prime mover behind harsh ordinances in Farmer’s Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Penn., among other places, that essentially punish those who aid undocumented immigrants. Kobach also was a key drafter of the new Arizona law.

Rawitz is far from the only FAIR official (IRLI is merely a program of FAIR, not a legally separate entity) to make disparaging comments about dark-skinned immigrants. For instance, FAIR President Dan Stein, who has long been part of IRLI’s governance structure, said in 1997  that “[i]mmigrants don’t come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing. Some of them firmly believe in socialist or redistributist [sic] ideas. Many of them hate America, hate everything the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans.”

John Tanton, the founder of FAIR and a current board member of the group, wrote in a 1993 letter, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” The SPLC has listed FAIR as a hate group since 2007 for reasons that are summarized here.

  • Peter Blaise

    I believe that the point of the original blog entry above is to keep documenting the background of FAIR, and as such, it’s a great reference. Thanks for the information and the links.

    Sadly, responses have wandered, and because they have included inaccuracies, I feel it is appropriate to respond.

    People say there is an immigration problem, but no one can really identify any problem without racist assessments or inaccurate crime statistics. And, there is magical thinking in the claim that SB1070 will make all crime simply vanish. Perhaps we need an accurate crime registry, or more importantly, and accurate societal expense registry, with concomitant effect on life, limb, and property, to help us all know what’s most important to pay attention to. Life and limb wise, I’d say it’s Iraq, big industry, and medical industries that hurt us most. Property wise, I’d say it’s Wall Street, banking, and insurance companies that hurt us most. By paying attention to the non-issue of immigration, we ignore real problems as they rip off America’s value.

    Some also believe SB1070 is merely a mirror of Federal Law. It is not. One, it incorporates unique FAIR language as the goals of SB1070 that are contrary to Federal Law: “… SB1070: The legislature declares that the intent of this act is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona…” “… attrition …” is not a Federal policy. That wording is a FAIR invention, and they have plans for that wording. Illegal immigrants now, citizens born to illegal immigrants later, naturalized citizens from “undesirable” countries after that. And so on. Reds to the rez, Blacks to jail, Latinos to Mexico, Jews to … you see the pattern. Once FAIR’s “attrition” policy is established, it can become a precedent for other laws and other states to reduce their “undesirable” (read:non-white, non-evangelical) populations, also. Two, it legalizes warrantless searches against the Federal Bill of Rights ” … Article 4: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized…” And, on top of that anti-Federalism, SB1070 indemnifies anyone who carries our such warrantless search: “… SB1070: A law enforcement officer is indemnified by the law enforcement officer’s agency against reasonable costs and expenses, including attorney fees, incurred by the officer in connection with any action, suit or proceeding brought pursuant to this section to which the officer may be a party by reason of the officer being or having been a member of the law enforcement agency …” If SB1070 were truly in concert with Federal law, none of this wording would not be in there. They are trying to legalize vigilante sweeps of anyone and everyone “not like me”.

    Some people think this only applies to criminals, but since due process hasn’t been served before investigating immigration status, no one’s has to be a criminal before investigating immigration status. This is contrary to the age-old expectation in America that you are “innocent until proven guilty”. This law encourages indemnified vigilante harassment of anyone “not like me” without probable cause, including being a passenger in a car — “… I thought you were weaving / had no brake light / etc, OH, let me see the paperwork of everyone in the car …” — or being in a house where music was playing – “… I had an anonymous complaint that the music was too loud, OH, let me see the paperwork of everyone in the house …” The true goal of FAIR, the push behind this law, is to eliminate all non-Europeans form Arizona, then move on to the next state.

    Finally for now, I see the true goal of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer: to have the Police and sworn assistants (read: vigilantes) barricade voting booths and detain anyone who looks like they “might be here illegally”, preventing non-white, non-English speaking voting. This matches up her political goals with the goals of FAIR.

    SB1070 is part of a Nazi sympathizer funded, neo-Nazi authored, white-supremacists proffered plan. It is important that we take up the baton from our parent’s who fought the Nazis in Germany, and continue the battle in Arizona. These people are not Nazi-like. They are Nazis.

  • John Pliezak

    I’m confused as to what in this 20 year old information was worthy of a post. And this is the weakest playing of the Nazi card ever. And many Cubans are not “dark-skinned immigrants.” They are 100% White Spanish stock. And there is no question whatsoever that there were a significant number of homosexuals deported from Cuba during the boat life (Heidi herself points out the huge number of serious criminals–nearly 3000–that came over).

    All in all, a bit of a headscratcher.

  • Reyn

    I am as liberal as they come – we are pretty hard to the Left – and I have no problem at all with immigrants or immigration – but I do believe it needs to be controlled and I do believe that people NEED to be here legally. I have no problem with the Arizona law as it reads. It enables enforcement, and we should be enforcing our own laws.

    Kind thoughts,


  • beholder

    Boycotts don’t work. We should have lifted the embargo on Cuba decades ago.

    By the way, that is not to say that conferences and tourism businesses should continue to choose Arizona as a destination. In this case, there is a legitimate reason for concern about their clients and attendees being singled out and harassed by the local stormtroopers.

    The same is true for professional sports, transportation, and anyone else who is required to go to Arizona for private or public business as an employee. In that case, Arizona should be considered a rogue nation and all due precautions should be taken and respected by employers.

    But there is no reason why we should stop buying copper, which is about the only thing Arizona produces. After all, without copper, how will we fight our wars?

  • Michael

    I’m a Mexican-American and proud of it, but I support the Arizona bill. I read it, and found that it follows the same guidelines as the federal law. So basically the opponents are saying, “It’s okay for the feds to racially profile, but not the state.” There are many problems with this logic, obviously. Be realistic, the vast majority of illegal immigrants are from Mexico, stop being so afraid of being politically incorrect. This isn’t a big deal. None of you apparently understand current law, either. Because if you did, you’d know that if you’re caught doing something illegal (which is a pre-requisite for SB1070 to be enforced) and don’t have identification, you can be taken to the station to be detained. The US has a serious problem with illegal immigration, these people are coming here illegally and reaping the benefits while there are individuals in other countries in Asia, Europe, South America and Australia who don’t have the option to just hop the border with such ease. We should have LEGAL immigration to the US so we can acutally regulate who enters this country. We need immigration reform- secure the border and make it easier to become a legal citizen and this will all be sorted out.

  • Brad Hoover

    1) Sounds like Rawitz’s primary souce of information about the Mariel boatlift was ‘Scarface.’ Odd how similar characterizations are also assigned to Russian/Ukrainian immigrants who were allowed to leave the USSR in the 90s.

    2) I dont get the contradiction in that, those who tend to support the AZ law also tend to be anti-big government and pro-states rights….If that were true then why back legislation that essentially federalizes local law enforcement by compelling them to act as defacto immigration police?

    3) Wont this make things worse? How much time will AZ cops waste checking on people’s papers when they could be responding to life threatening emergencies?

  • Pamala

    Asimov Bagatov, the majority of the people of AZ seem to like the racism and bigotry as displayed by their gov and congressional reps–they keep voting them in. AZ was the last state to honor MLK Day until the loss of federal funding changed their mind…it seems to be a well burnt pattern of right-wing hate politics that drives that state. The business owners are typically republicans, carry a lot of weight in state government, and could have easily stopped the laws from taking hold, so they deserve whatever happens to them.

    REJECT the AZ hate law.

  • PSzymeczek

    What this law is really about is suppression of the Latino-American electorate. When Jan Brewer was Secretary of state, she attempted to purge the voter rolls of 500,000 registered Latino voters, and actually succeeded in purging 100,000. Latinos and Native Americans in Arizona tend to vote Democratic, and their numbers here legally are increasing. SB 1070 is intended to make it legal to harass brown people so they will stay away from the polls.

  • Kate De Braose

    I suggest that we find a more accurate description of what are purported to be Republican ideals. Calling them ‘conservative’ is simply a false label. That Arizona law is more accurately described as ‘reactionary.’ This newly inspired fear of Spanish speaking immigrants is quite pathological, especially in the very cosmopolitan USA.

    We could cure all of it and also put more Americans to work if we simply hired language teachers and trained all of our American students in the most common foreign languages.

  • Talk

    Wouldn’t a valid state identification be proof that you are here legally?

  • Asimov Bagatov

    I would agree with Expatriot. what is the point of punishing legal businesses for wanting to follow the law?

  • Expatriot

    We can agree that FAIR has ulterior motives in this regard, but if one actually reads Arizona’s law, it is pretty clear that it follows the US federal law on illegal immigration. Unless we are for open borders, I am unsure that we should be so hypercritical of Arizona’s attempt to try to control it’s border, until the federal government does something to determine what our status will be in this regard. Boycotting Arizona only hurts legal businesses, and that doesn’t seem to me to be a fair thing to do.

  • John Molina

    That would be David Card, of UC Berkeley.

  • beholder

    Arizona will probably just go ahead and sew a yellow “L” on every Latino citizen’s lapel to make it easier for the stormtroopers to sort out the illegals from the second class citizens.