The Organization: FAIR's Nativist History
Over the years, nativist lawyer Kris Kobach has drawn a great deal of criticism for his association with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — from his political opponents, human rights advocates and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has listed FAIR as a hate group since 2007. Kobach joined the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), FAIR's legal arm, as senior legal counsel in 2004 and remains "of counsel" to the group today.
In the most general terms, SPLC lists FAIR because the organization has probably done more to inject fear and bigotry into the national immigration debate than any other. FAIR's demonizing propaganda, aimed primarily at Latinos and often Catholics; its ties to other hate groups and hiring of their members; and its push for laws promoting racial discord around the country have been instrumental in creating the anti-immigrant backlash America is currently suffering through.
For his part, Kobach has never addressed the substance of the criticisms of FAIR, the organization for whose legal arm he has worked for the better part of six years now. Here is a summary of why SPLC lists FAIR as a hate group:
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration Act of 1965, he celebrated the demise of the old racist quota system, calling it “un-American.” FAIR official Dan Stein (center), however, said the 1965 law was an unwarranted attack on “Anglo-Saxon dominance.”
• Views of FAIR's president. Dan Stein, today FAIR's president and before that its executive director, has repeatedly attacked the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which was aimed at reforming a racist quota system that basically restricted immigration to Northern Europeans. (President Johnson, in signing the act, said that "for over four decades the immigration policy of the United States has been twisted and has been distorted by the harsh injustice of the national origins quota system," which was "un-American in the highest sense.") Using an argument common in white nationalist circles, Stein has characterized the act as a disaster for Western civilization and Anglo-Saxon dominance. In a 1994 oral history housed at George Washington University's Gelman Library, Stein told his interviewer that those who supported the 1965 reform wanted to "retaliate against Anglo-Saxon dominance" and that this "revengism" against whites had created a policy that is causing "chaos and will continue to create chaos." In an earlier, 1991 memo entitled "The Defenders of American Culture Rise to the Call to Arms," Stein said he hoped that mounting criticism of multiculturalism would eventually lead to attacks on the 1965 Act, which he called "a key mistake in national policy" and a "source of error."
Stein also takes a dim view of today's immigrants. He has warned that immigrants are engaged in "competitive breeding" aimed at diminishing white power and that "[m]any of them hate America, hate everything the United States stands for." Stein led FAIR's efforts to win funding from the racist Pioneer Fund, saying in 1993 that his "job [was] to get every dime of Pioneer's money." Stein also served as editorial adviser to The Social Contract, a nativist hate journal published by FAIR founder John Tanton, when it ran a particularly virulent special issue that was entitled, "Europhobia: The Hostility Toward European-Descended Americans." The lead article of the issue argued that multiculturalism was replacing "successful Euro-American culture" with "dysfunctional Third World cultures."
• Taking money from racists. FAIR solicited and accepted a total of $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a notorious organization set up by Nazi sympathizers in 1937 and run to this day by white nationalists to fund studies of eugenics (selective breeding of humans to produce a "better" race) and race and intelligence. Saying it didn't know about the fund's background, FAIR stopped publicly seeking Pioneer money in 1994 after a barrage of embarrassing publicity. But that didn't stop three FAIR board members from meeting privately three years later with the Pioneer Fund's then-chairman, Harry Weyher, to discuss fundraising. Nor did it stop FAIR from taking money from members of Pioneer's board for several years thereafter. Today, FAIR has lost its reticence about the fund, devoting two pages of its website to defending the foundation. When Stein was asked in 1997 about the late FAIR board member Garrett Hardin's belief that only "intelligent people" should breed, he responded, "Yeah, so what? What is your problem with that?"
John Tanton, who founded FAIR and most of the country’s other major nativist organizations, has written that American culture requires “a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”
• The racism of FAIR's founder. John Tanton, who founded FAIR in 1979 and remains a central player on its board today, has a decades-long history of making racist statements and enthusing about eugenics (he once asked Michigan officials if forced sterilization was illegal, citing the case of "a local pair of sisters who have nine illegitimate children between them"). Tanton has said that unless U.S. borders are sealed, America will be overrun by people "defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs." He has warned of a "Latin onslaught," complained of Latinos' allegedly low "educability," and said they "bring with them the tradition of the mordida [bribe]." He has a lengthy record of friendly correspondence with Holocaust deniers, a former Klan lawyer and leading white nationalist thinkers, including Jared Taylor (who wrote in 2005, "When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization — any kind of civilization — disappears").
Tanton even proposed to his colleagues at FAIR and to several well-known white nationalists, including Jared Taylor and the late Sam Francis, that they create together a group called the League for European-American Defense, Education and Research (LEADER). The idea was to defend "ourselves and our tradition against attacks," counter "the denigration of Western culture" that Tanton said was "under siege," and stop the "reduction of the European-American demographic and cultural majority to minority status." On another occasion, he wrote a major FAIR funder to suggest she read the work of a radical anti-Semitic professor — to "give you a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life" — and suggested that the entire FAIR board discuss the man's theories about the Jews. At one point, Tanton wrote that "for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." In a letter to FAIR board member Donald Collins, Tanton enthused over the work of John Trevor Sr. — a key architect of the bluntly racist Immigration Act of 1924 and a man who distributed pro-Nazi propaganda and warned shrilly of "diabolical Jewish control" of America — and said it should serve FAIR as "a guidepost to what we must follow again this time." Despite this track record, Stein has shrunk from any criticism of FAIR's founder; on the contrary, Stein in 2009 characterized John Tanton as a "Renaissance man."
• Leading FAIR officials' participation in racist groups. Rick Oltman, FAIR's long-time western regional coordinator, spoke as part of a 1997 immigration panel put on by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group that has described black people as a "retrograde species of humanity." Council publications at the time listed Oltman as a member. The FAIR official who followed Oltman in his position, Joseph Turner, who earlier ran an anti-immigrant hate group, was on record before joining FAIR as saying that being a white separatist did not imply a person was racist. Jim Staudenraus, FAIR's eastern regional coordinator, participated in an anti-immigration conference in 2002 with Jared Taylor. In 2007, a senior FAIR official met with leaders of Vlaams Belang, a Belgian political party that officials in that country outlawed in a previous incarnation (Vlaams Blok) as a "criminal organization" because of its racist anti-immigrant views.
• Bigotry on the board. FAIR board member Donald Collins writes frequently for the VDARE.com, a nativist website named after Virginia Dare, said to have been the first English child born in the New World. (VDARE is dedicated to bashing immigrants and has published the work of many white nationalists and anti-Semites.) Collins' articles have focused on attacking the Catholic Church for its liberal stance on immigration. One accused Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony of selling out his country "in exchange for more temporal power and glory." Another claimed bishops were "infiltrating and manipulating the American political process" to dismantle the separation of church and state — the classic calumny directed at American Catholics for decades by the Klan and others. Another person linked to VDARE is Joe Guzzardi, a member of FAIR's board of advisors who works as an editor of the site. Other members of FAIR's board of directors have offered similar sentiments. Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm once said that "new cultures" in America were "diluting what we are and who we are." The late Garrett Hardin said the developing world was full of "breeders" who needed to be stopped.
• FAIR programming. FAIR long produced television programming under the title "Borderline" that featured interviews with prominent white nationalists, including the late Sam Francis, who later became the top editor of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens; and Jared Taylor, who edits American Renaissance, a newsletter that claims blacks and Latinos are intellectually inferior to whites. The program, which opened with footage of immigrants crossing the border or arriving in the U.S. in broken-down flotillas, often demonized immigrants.
In 1996, for instance, Francis called immigration an act of "political warfare" and an attempt by Mexico to create a "political bludgeon against the United States." At other times, "Borderline" advanced ideas popular in white nationalist circles. One that was particularly popular was the warning that immigrants are ruining U.S. culture or displacing Western civilization with degenerate, Third World ways. In 1996, white nationalist Lawrence Auster argued on the show that because of the immigrant "invasion," "America is in the process of dissolving as a nation" and faces the prospect of losing "the historic European Anglo American culture." Host Dan Stein certainly seemed to agree with his guest's worries. "How can we preserve America if it becomes 50% Latin American?" he asked Auster.
On its website, FAIR has pushed racist conspiracy theories about Mexico's purported secret designs on the American Southwest and also an alternative theory alleging secret plans by national elites to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada. It has also run extremely controversial political advertisements, including one in 2000 in Iowa that was rejected by a TV station as "borderline racist." That same year, Sen. Alan Simpson resigned from FAIR over ads it ran comparing then-Senate candidate Spencer Abraham, an Arab American, to Osama bin Laden.