Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Even Bigots Have Sympathizers

Jill Garvey • Jul 19, 2010
FAIR founder John Tanton

FAIR founder John Tanton

No matter how much controversy rains down on anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration (founded by white nationalist John Tanton), some politicians and media pundits persistently give them the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because a lot of times human nature tells us to let our personal agendas override common sense. Even when we are in positions of influence.

I was reminded of this facet of human behavior over the weekend while listening to various talk radio hosts (all men) discuss Mel Gibson’s recent antics. One host inanely said “Gibson’s rants and actions are totally indefensible…” pause, “but what I want to know if he really said those things…I want to know first if this woman set him up.” Common sense tells us that the same guy who hurled anti-Semitic slurs at a female police officer a few years ago, whose voice is on record verbally abusing his girlfriend and admitting to hitting her, did something terribly wrong, something “indefensible.” But  Mr. Radio Host likely has a little racist misogynist deep down inside telling him to defend the guy who punched his girlfriend in the face.

So it goes. Even the lowliest characters have their sympathizers, and anti-immigrant groups are no exception.

Just last week U.S. Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) joined with the Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC) and Federation for American Immigration (FAIR) in drafting a brief in defense of Arizona’s racist law, SB 1070, that was crafted by FAIR’s legal team. The brief is in response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to file a lawsuit against the law last week.

On the east coast another sympathizer popped up.  A Maryland state representative published an op-ed defending the anti-immigrant law and announcing his intention to introduce a similar law in his state. Have fun with that, Maryland!

Even in the media, where political agendas aren’t so overt, news editors seem hesitant to drop FAIR and other John Tanton organizations as sources. Many take FAIR at face value when it claims it’s not racist, just the victim of a “smear campaign.” This is despite several instances where the group has been found to be lying - despite the overwhelming evidence cataloged by numerous civil rights groups linking FAIR to white nationalism.

Then there are the sympathizers of an entirely different kind. Ever since FAIR increased its foothold in Arizona, it has opened the door for white supremacists to ramp up activity there.

According to an article in The NY Daily News,

Jason “J.T.” Ready, who is tied to the white supremacist National Socialist Movement, has organized an armed militia to patrol the border and kill or capture immigrants trying to escape into the United States.

Taking a cue from anti-immigrant talking points, Ready told the The Associated Press:

“We’re not going to sit around and wait for the government anymore. This is what our founding fathers did.”

J.T. Ready isn’t new to the scene. Back in 2007, he was snapped hanging out with Arizona state legislator Russell Pearce. Pearce is a member of State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), a coalition of anti-immigrant state-elected officials, orchestrated by John Tanton. SLLI serves as the local legislative arm of the John Tanton Network. Pearce has many more connections to the Tanton Network. He was the chief sponsor of the racist S.B. 1070 bill in Arizona. The bill was drafted by Kris Kobach of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the Tanton Network.

Ultimately it all comes back to FAIR and John Tanton. And as Ready and Pearce illustrate, the lines between sympathizers, enablers, and collaborators gets very blurry.

We expect neo-Nazis to flock to the aid of a bigoted organization like FAIR. But when politicians and mainstream media do too, it’s mighty disturbing.

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