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Congressional subcommittee’s expert panel stacked with friends of the anti-immigrant movement

Jill Garvey • Mar 01, 2011

Today, the House Immigration Subcommittee will conduct a hearing entitled, “Making Immigration Work for American Minorities.” It is troubling that Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Steve King (R-IA) - dubbed the “rabid anti-immigration trio of powerful GOP congressmen” by the NY Daily News - are pretending to address immigration for the sake of minorities. But even more damaging perhaps are the witnesses they’ve called to testify at the hearing.

Based on its name, one would think the GOP subcommittee would have brought forth legitimate leaders from the African American and other minority communities. But the majority witnesses instead read like a who’s who of the anti-immigrant movement.

In fact, it looks as if Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), two of the most powerful anti-immigrant organizations in the U.S., are lending their star power.

Both groups were founded by white nationalist John Tanton (in 1979 and 1985 respectively). Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) was founded as a project directly under the control of FAIR. The Washington, D.C.-based think tank portrays itself as a mainstream organization that studies the impact of immigration in the U.S. With a network populated by individuals with ties to political extremists, including white nationalists, CIS was created to establish credibility for FAIR. Tanton himself described the objective of CIS as an attempt “(t)o expand our fund-raising machine…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.”

Frank L. Morris and Carol M. Swain are two of the three majority (GOP) witnesses, and each have ties to multiple John Tanton groups.

For example, Frank Morris sits on the board of directors of the Center for Immigration Studies. He also sits on the board of directors for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Morris is the vice president of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) (led by a former FAIR staffer), and the Chairman of Alliance for a Sustainable USA. Alliance for Sustainable USA’s executive director, Yeh Ling-Ling, is on FAIR’s national board of advisers. Alliance for Sustainable USA’s vice chair is also on FAIR’s board of advisers.

Morris once held the position of Chairman of the group Choose Black America, a front group founded by FAIR, in early 2006. Choose Black America leader Ted Hayes later acknowledged the group’s kickoff press conference in May 2006 was funded by FAIR, and he was only able to name two other members of the group -  Frank Morris, of course, was one of them.

Morris along with PFIR board members Dick Lamm and David Pimentel lost their bids to join the Sierra Club’s board in 2004. This was an attempt by anti-immigrant groups to stack the Club’s board and eventually control the most powerful environmental organization in the country.

In the 1990s, FAIR founder John Tanton tried the same thing by pushing a proposal that the Club take an anti-immigrant stance. Many Sierra Club members saw the proposed stance as fundamentally racist. At the time, Carl Pope, current Sierra Club chairman, considered it a hostile takeover attempt. “The whole idea of people trying to hijack an organization to advance their cause was outrageous,”

Pope told a Washington Post Reporter in 2006. “And I found many of the things he [Tanton] had said since I had known him deplorable and unconscionable.”

Carol Swain has also had a recent history collaborating with Tanton organizations. Just one year ago she was taking part in a panel sponsored by Tanton-founded Center for Immigration Studies.

Swain also took part in a panel sponsored by NumbersUSA’s as a part of its S.T.O.P. Amnesty campaign last year. NumbersUSA was founded in 1997 under the financial and administrative umbrella of Tanton’s U.S., Inc. Roy Beck, NumbersUSA CEO, joined Swain on the panel. White nationalist John Tanton referred to Roy Beck of NumbersUSA as his “heir apparent” in a 1998 letter. Roy Beck once presented at the annual conference of Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist organization.

Swain also caused quite a stir back in 2009 when she publicly praised a controversial documentary about racism or a lack thereof. The documentary, titled, “A Conversation about Race,” received most of its praise from hate publications and groups, including Vdare.com, The Occidental Quarterly, the National Policy Institute, American Renaissance and the Council of Conservative Citizens’ Citizens Informer.

In light of the affiliations of Swain and Morris, it’s hard to believe that the House Immigration Subcommittee couldn’t find witnesses better suited to testify on “Making Immigration Work for Minorities.” After all, Reps. Gallegly, Smith and King are already well aware of the Tanton Network’s anti-immigrant stance. Steve King is in fact a prominent member of the legislative arm of the network, State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), which works closely with FAIR.

Congressmen pulling witnesses from a small pool of controversial anti-immigrant leaders will do nothing to solve our country’s immigration issue. And it’s a slap in the face to minority communities, who deserve a real voice in this discussion.

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