Starting today, the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is holding its fifth annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire (HFTF) event. Fifty talk radio hosts are in Washington, D.C., for what FAIR calls “the largest immigration ‘town hall’ of the airwaves to date.” The hosts will broadcast from near the Capitol, chiefly to demand that members of Congress and other officials take a harder line against immigration. FAIR supporters will also be on hand to lobby elected officials for anti-immigrant legislation that will “relieve many of the burdens that mass immigration – legal and illegal – imposes on the American people.”
Many of the radio hosts joining FAIR have engaged in vicious anti-immigrant demagoguery. Phil Valentine of 99.7 WTN in Nashville, Tenn., has been particularly awful. In 2006, Valentine held an anti-immigration “town hall meeting” in Franklin, Tenn., which more than 1,000 people attended. During the event, which was broadcast live, Valentine conducted a question-and-answer session with Susan Tully, FAIR’s national field director. At one point, Tully described how Border Patrol agents repeatedly apprehend the same Latino immigrants, returning them to Mexico each time only to later detain the same person again. Tully claimed that a Border Patrol agent in Laredo, Texas, told her that this process had been repeated as many as seven times. Tully then said she asked the agent, “What do you do on the eighth time?” and Valentine interjected: “Shoot him!” Tully laughed, and the crowd cheered.
Valentine’s not the only HFTF host who has bashed immigrants. Steve Gill of FOX News Radio has repeatedly described undocumented immigrants as a military invasion force. In May 2006, Gill said, “if 100,000 Mexicans rushed the border at the same time and if people looked at the situation the way it really is, no one would call it anything other than an invasion, and we would send in the military and shoot people.” Other hosts, including Helen Glover and Dave Elswick, have actively promoted the Minuteman movement, often by broadcasting from border encampments. Media Matters has a full rundown here on the anti-immigrant and often racist comments made by various hosts participating in FAIR’s event.
Joining these radio hosts will be other anti-immigrant activists, including Leah Durant of the deceptively named Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). PFIR sent out an email advising that Durant will be interviewed by several radio shows, including “The Joyce Kaufman Show,” “The Other Side with Charles Butler” and “The Schilling Show.” PFIR is known for cloaking its anti-immigrant message behind appeals arguing that fewer immigrants would be better for the environment and labor. But this “progressive” message is belied by the fact that PFIR’s boards are stuffed full of former FAIR officials.
This year, the agenda seems to have moved a bit beyond immigration. Former San Diego mayor and longtime talk radio host Roger Hedgecock has headlined HFTF for the past few years, usually ranting about what he considers America’s broken immigration system. But this year, Hedgecock says his agenda has broadened to this: “Cut federal spending, repeal and defund Obamacare and secure the border with Mexico.” And he is sounding downright apocalyptic. In a posting yesterday on World Net Daily called “Talk Is Not Enough,” Hedgecock complained that “our Constitution is in the shredder” and the “time for talk” is over; it’s now the “time for action.”