'WITAN Memo' II
July 11, 1986
To: Board of Directors
From: Roger [Conner]
re: Quo Vadis
When John Tanton and I sat down on his deck back in 1978, he laid out a concept for FAIR [Federation for American Immigration Reform] that, with modifications by the Board, has guided us to this day. Now, with "Quo Vadis," which John has sent to you separately, he has challenged us to think anew about where the immigration reform movement is headed and how FAIR fits in.
John asked me to share his memo with the staff, and to pass my own thoughts and theirs to you, which is the purpose of this document.
I. Where we have been: Some thoughts on what it means:
We started FAIR seven and one half years ago. Our goals were to stop illegal immigration and to conform legal immigration policies to the realities of the 1980s. To reach those goals, we set a series of objectives, including: make the idea of limiting immigration acceptable, develop policy ideas on how to curtail illegal immigration, and build a strong and enduring organization to implement them.
Our strategy was often dictated by external events: A Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy proposed a comprehensive reform of U.S. Immigration laws shortly after we came into existence. So we made Simpson-Mazzoli (now Simpson-Rodino) the focus of our legislative efforts, and concentrated our research, education, and staff actions on decision-makers and media here in the nation’s capital.
Simpson-Mazoli is not (yet) law. Whether or not it passes in this session, John’s memo argues that FAIR needs to shift gears. To summarize (this is my summary, not his), he suggests that we:
(1) In Congress, put more effort into bills which originate outside the Judiciary Committee, to seek incremental progress rather than comprehensive reform;
(2) Put more effort toward persuading agencies to better enforce existing laws in ways that do not require new legislation;
(3) Put more effort into development of grass roots power, less into national media;
(4) Concentrate on building an organization for the long haul, not just the next few months.
When I look back at the last seven years, it seems to me that we have succeeded to an astounding degree at modifying public opinion, so that our ideas on how to control illegal immigration are now widely accepted. We came within a cat’s whisker of passing an immigration . . .refining a bill for the last eighteen months instead of trying to get one passed).
However, while we have been making progress in Congress and with the national media, we have been losing ground on other fronts. This leads me to my second point:
II. Things can get worse.
Our goal has been to stop illegal immigration. With 1.8 million apprehensions and the millions of illegals in the country, the situation is bad What we need to realize is things could get worse -- much worse -- than they are today if the enemies of immigration reform succeed. And they are succeeding. How?
One, they are raising huge war chests to bring lawsuits designed to expand the rights of illegal aliens. MALDEF (the Mexican–American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) has received annual grants of $500,000 from the Ford Foundation and $750,000 from the Carnegie Endowment. Their list of contributors includes many of the Fortune 500 companies. In the world of fund raising, Hispanic-oriented advocacy groups are the "hot" item, just as giving to higher education building campaigns was some 20 years ago.
Two, existing welfare bureaucracies are adopting illegals as a legitimate clientele, a process that is encouraging the illegals to become permanent residents. Indeed, the rhetoric used widely now classifies all illegals as "refugees." The Ford Foundation’s annual report carries this designation throughout.
Three, the new legal immigrants are quickly forming lobbies to demand increased legal immigration from their home countries by obtaining exemptions from the numerical limits in our immigration laws. Indians are opposing deletion of fifth preference, Southeast Asians are lobbying to increased "refugee" admissions from Vietnam, the Cubans want unlimited Cuban admissions.
Four, Hispanic migration is large, and new Hispanic leaders are increasingly adopting a demanding, intimidating style to insist on preferential, deferential treatment form non-Hispanic politicians.
Five, a new idea is taking root that any person from a country where there is political violence should have the right to come to the U.S.; the sanctuary movement is merely the first stage in a movement designed to play on the sympathies of the American people for the admission of first one group and then another.
Six, legal immigration is growing -- to over 600,000 per year now. Many of the problems we have talked about are worsened by immigration on this scale.
In short: The situation today is far different from in the past, and unfortunately, presages trouble in the future. The rules are different and the aims are new. For example, assimilation and learning English do not seem to be high priorities. There are many successful efforts under way to expand the rights of illegal aliens and to expand the numbers of immigrants.
The current situation, which seems so bad to us, could be -- indeed will be -- vastly worse in another decade. The political power of the immigrants -- legal and illegal -- will be so great that nothing can stop it, and the greatest migration in the history of the United States will fundamentally transform our society and economy.
III. Our long term agenda: a recapitulation
I am often asked, what would it take to restore American immigration policy? I talk about five "C’s" of immigration reform:
- Cut the magnet of jobs which draws illegals here (employer sanctions)
- Control the border with technology and manpower
- Cap legal immigration, with the level periodically reviewed
- Close the loopholes which give illegals rights to welfare and lengthy bureaucratic procedural rights
- Contribute to population control and economic development in source countries.
Recently I have toyed with a sixth: acculturation or citizenship training, encouraging the new immigrants to become Americans instead of forming into separate political and social groups.
The Board has considered raising the spectre of long-term failure of assimilation and national division, but has not resolved whetber and how we should raise this topic.
Our strategy has been to focus primarily on Number 1 above, i.e. Cut the magnet with employer sanctions. John’s memo suggests that we need to do more to "Close loopholes" (Number 3), which we can do with changes in agency procedures and relatively minor changes in the law.
I agree, and so does the rest of the staff. In fact, as the Reagan administration has only two and a half years remaining, there is an urgent need for us to do more to get friendly administrators to formalize policy changes, for there is no way to assure that a future administration will be as supportive as this one.
In addition, we should be looking for an opportunity to get a "cap" on legal immigration into law, and build a base of support for true Border control. (More on this later.)
Our rationale, the issues we raise to persuade people to support this platform, revolves around simple issues: Sovereignty (we have a right to determine who comes), limits (we can’t take unlimited immigration given the huge growth in world population and migration pressures), effects on our own disadvantaged, and increased burdens on the taxpayers. We have recently added concerns over Border crime and immigration fraud as minor themes.
IV. Highpoints of Our First Seven Years: Another Recapitulation
Dan Stein suggests that a good way to think about John’s memo is to make a list of our most important successful projects (by success he means important both to immigration reform and to building FAIR.) Here’s my list. You might want to make your own as a way of thinking about John’s memo.
- 1979 Census Lawsuit. Though the Census Bureau won, it put us on the map.
- 1980 Florida Campaign to stop the Cuban flotilla. The half-page ads, the thousands of angry letters we generated, all combined, this generated more members than any other project.
- 1982 Poll of Hispanics and Blacks – led eventually to fundamental change in how opinion-makers viewed Hispanic opposition.
- 1982 Publication of "Breaking Down the Barriers," our monograph on use of welfare by illegals, eventually changed how many people think in this subject; "Bible" for INS advocacy of SAVE program.
- 1982-83 Full-page ads endorsing Simpson-Mazolli from broad cross-section of American leaders.
- 1983 Attention given FAIR in Fallows article, Wash Post feature.
- 1984 Tip O’Neill forced to reverse himself and bring up Simpson-Mazolli bill after FAIR campaign.
- 1984 Largest increase in history for Border Patrol.
- 1985-86 Publication and promotion of Lamm’s book.
- 1985 Defeat of Sanctuary Resolution in Austin.
V. Implications of Quo Vadis for FAIR programs
One can come away from John’s memo overwhelmed . It is a long list of ideas, each of which takes power to implement. Patrick reminds me of Chairman Mao’s saying that the three sources of power are "People, Money, and Guns"- and each is interchangeable. To that list must be added "Information." And up until now, information -- about the immigration problem, our opponent’s strategies, legislative ideas -- has been the primary source of our influence. With Mac’s modified admonition in mind, what are the implications of John’s memo?
His suggestion is that we recognize our current "plateau" of funding as a given and reallocate resources away from media and lobbying for comprehensive legislation, and toward administrative lobbying, grass roots membership activism, and litigation.
We can do that. Indeed, we already have shifted tactics in these directions. But if that’s all we do, we will never attain our goals. We will only contain our losses. As I outlined above, things could get far worse than they are today, so that limiting our losses would be a worthwhile goal. But we must engage in a significant expansion of our efforts if we are serious about stopping illegal immigration.
Here is how John’s memo relates to our programs.
- Lobbying. John is correct in saying that we should try to achieve incremental changes through . . . we should abandon the effort to secure employer sanctions if Simpson-Rodino fails. The notion of introducing legislation through other Committees is sound, but in order to do so we will need an expansion in our lobbying staff and activities, not merely a reallocation of existing resources.
- Changes in Agency Rules, Regulations and Practices, and the Courts: IRLI [Immigration Reform Law Institute]
We have already taken steps in this direction by creating a Litigation Program. At the last meeting the Board approved the creation of IRLI, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which we hope can expand our fund-
- Raising market. The Litigation Program has already won successes: a dramatic reversal of an INS policy not to prosecute employers, and more recently a decision by the State of Texas not to give in to MALDEF’s demand that illegal aliens should receive unemployment compensation.
To effectively bring about changes in Agency policy we will need to expand IRLI into a major, independent organization, one which can sue (on behalf of FAIR) when needed, pressure the agencies to change their policies, and resist proposed rule changes that come from the enemies of immigration control.
- Grass Roots: We have taken steps within the past year to increase Field activities. We now have a more senior, energetic person running the program in Marty Winans. The "Targeted Congressional District Program" approved by the Board at the last meeting is providing us with a test of how to increase membership in key districts. And the establishment of a field office in Texas is giving us greater visibility in that state.
John’s memo implies an expansion of these efforts. One idea which came out of the staff responses to John was the creation of regional specialists on the Washington staff, i.e. staff members working out of our office here whose job it is to develop ties with local media and local members in the key six states of major migration: Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Illinois.
John’s memo also implies that we should look for local issues which can serve as a catalyst for grass roots development. Our anti-Sanctuary campaign in Austin is an example. We not only defeated the Sanctuary resolution there, but also created a large committee of local activists who are continuing efforts in education and lobbying for FAIR’s broader agenda. Another example is that we have opposed a race track near the Border in San Diego that will disrupt the Border Patrol’s activities.
One additional way to create higher visibility is to conduct regional or national meetings and workshops. We have discussed annual meetings of FAIR members. Why not have three or four "annual meetings" in the areas of our major membership groups?
Again: more grass roots organizing will increase our effective membership and our perceived political power. And it will take more money and staff, money which has either to be raised or reallocated.
- Research and Publications: I said earlier that information is the source of our power. To expand our fund-raising market, we created the Center for Immigration Studies last year. We need to get CIS fully funded and entrenched as a major Washington think-tank, one that can venture into issues which FAIR is not yet ready to raise.
This does not imply a retrenchment in FAIR’s information gathering and dissemination, however. Indeed, Patrick makes a strong case that we should expand these efforts, especially to get better information on the effects of immigration on key states and Congressional Districts, and to better synthesize the information so that it will be more useful to journalists.
- Media: Typical reaction from the staff to the suggestion that we cut back here: "Sacrilege." Media is a major conduit to the public, decision-makers, and our own members. Effective media coverage strengthens our other programs. For example, FAIR members see us and want to give; members of Congress and their staffs [sic] great media consumers. The only change I can contemplate is better targeting of our media efforts.
- Direct Mail: Currently we are holding our own, generating enough new contributors to offset those who stop giving, but not much more.
John’s memo suggests that we do more to build membership in crucial Districts, but there is no suggestion that we try to become a truly mass organization of 100,000 to 200,000 members by investing more in direct mail. The staff is divided on this point, which could be revisited by the board.
- Fund Raising: To raise more money, we need to involve more of our closest friends. This means creating some sort of "cadres" of people, whether via Committees or some other designation, who will feel the sense of ownership required to put themselves on the line to raise funds for FAIR.
- Administration: I do not see major implications here. It "ain’t broke."
- Border Control: We all hoped at the beginning that Sanctions alone would be enough. I have reluctantly concluded that we will have to do much more at the Border itself.
What we need to do is develop a specific project to define what will be needed in each local stretch of Border, and build a specific constituency for each change. The old adage that "all Politics is local" applies here. We will never bring about needed fences, trenches, and manpower in Chula Vista, El Paso, and Brownsville without a meaningful plan and a local constituency. Each area is different, but determined local opposition will doom any plan developed in Washington, D.C.
We need a Border Security Project which would be an integral part of FAIR, but it will never really succeed unless it has a "Champion" on our own staff and strong mandate from the Board. If we do not take the lead on better border control, somebody else will!
- Going after the opposition One suggestion which has repeatedly arisen from within the staff is that we take a tougher line versus our principal adversaries. MALDEF is pursuing a line of litigation clearly designed to block immigration control and expand the rights of illegal aliens, yet they are supported by a "Who’sWho" of American foundations and corporations. We could do research which would document what MALDEF is up to and try to get them "defunded," an act which would serve notice that we are "taking the gloves off."
Second, we could pursue employers. We could publicize well known employers of illegal aliens, or simply issue lists of INS arrest records, or we could put information on apprehended illegals and their employers into a rudimentary computor [sic] program in order to give the information to the IRS or the state tax collectors.
Third, we could try to get an agreement from major U.S. corporations to have a policy of not hiring aliens out of immigration status. If we could threaten a big one--like Levi Strauss--with a nationwide consumer boycott, and force them to enter into an agreement, it might generate nationwide publicity.
These are three examples of a new tactic of "taking the gloves off’ to put our opponents on the defensive and give our members and supporters fresh enthusiasm. Is it time for such tactics of confrontation?
VI. Quo Vadis
I really think FAIR is at a crossroads during the next three months. One path is to lower our sights to achievable, realistic objectives, objectives that will ameliorate the problem but not solve it. The second is to raise our sights, recognizing that the current level of effort has not been enough.
The first path means a modest reorientation of current efforts: One lobbyist instead of two, more field appearances and less media, the same number of lawyers (one and one half), more time lobbying bureaucrats and less lobbying Congressman.
The second path means expanding IRLI to be a major arm for litigation and changing agency rules and regulations (two and a half lawyers and a paralegal instead of the current one and a half); adding a full time lobbyist to work committees other than Judiciary; adding at least one field person to work at organizing and coordinating field committees; setting up a Border Enforcement Project as a major initiative for FAIR; funding a writer to do a significant investigation of the MALDEF’s activities, and the activities of other Hispanic groups; assuring the perpetuation of the Center for Immigration Studies as a major Washington think tank.