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After SPLC action, immigration appeal board stops soliciting legal briefs from anti-immigrant hate group

The federal board charged with reviewing immigration court appeals will no longer request legal briefs from an anti-immigrant hate group to consider in its rulings – a decision that comes shortly after the SPLC and other groups urged the board to stop providing this platform to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The federal board charged with reviewing immigration court appeals will no longer request legal briefs from an anti-immigrant hate group to consider in its rulings – a decision that comes shortly after the SPLC and other groups urged the board to stop providing this platform to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

For years, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) requested legal briefs from FAIR to consider in its decisions. The BIA is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. FAIR, which was founded by a white nationalist, is designated as a hate group by the SPLC.

“For the board to be affirmatively asking for FAIR’s legal opinion undermines its professional reputation, suggests impropriety, and lends legitimacy to FAIR’s extreme views,” said Eunice Cho, staff attorney with SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “We are pleased that the board has stopped giving such a platform to this vitriolic ideology.”

The SPLC and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) submitted an amicus brief in June urging the board to stop soliciting briefs from FAIR. Six other organizations signed the brief. It was filed in a case currently before the BIA – Silva-Trevino v. Holder – and described how requesting amicus briefs from FAIR gives a forum to hate and extremism. It warns that the group’s extremist views may influence judgments in immigrants’ cases.

On June 22, days after the amicus brief was filed, the board announced it will no longer request briefs from FAIR. The group will still be allowed to submit briefs to the board as a member of the public, but they will be considered unsolicited briefs that the board is free to ignore.

Founded in 1979, FAIR is the brainchild of white nationalist John Tanton, the man viewed as the founder of the modern anti-immigrant movement. FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. 

“For far too long the BIA has operated under the mistaken idea that it is appropriate to provide a forum for an anti-immigrant hate group in the name of soliciting a counterpoint to the immigration issues being debated,” said Matt Adams, NWIRP legal director. “It is deeply rewarding to play a part in bringing this practice to an end.”

Six other organizations signed the amicus brief, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus; ASISTA; The Center for New Community; LatinoJustice PRLDEF; League of United Latin American Citizens and the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project.