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On Immigration, Judging Leaders By the Company they Keep

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 NC Editorial, Senate Rules Breach Raise Troubling Questions about Officials’ Association with Extremist Groups like FAIR

Washington, DC –  This past weekend, the editorial board of the Burlington Times-News in North Carolina roundly criticized local law enforcement officials who plan to attend a “training” hosted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Texas.  Titled “Law Enforcement is Best to Avoid Bad Company,” the editorial calls the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and Board of Commissioners to task for associating with FAIR, which has been designated an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its ties to white supremacists.

The editorial states: “Law enforcement organizations should be held to the highest standard of fairness possible in the eyes of all the public. There should be no hint of association with organizations that espouse hatred or an eradication of rights for any group over which a law enforcement agency has authority. To do otherwise calls into question the agency’s integrity should questions about mistreatment of criminal suspects arise in the future. And it’s especially true for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, which is currently in a legal back and forth with the U.S. Department of Justice over access to questioning staff members concerning allegations of racial profiling. We wish all involved would rethink this training trip to Texas and further association with FAIR and similar groups. After all, as mothers have said from the dawn of time: ‘You are known by the company you keep.’”

While the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office seems to be perfectly happy associating with extremist groups, others are not.  The Times-News reports that training organizers falsely claimed that their program was endorsed by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA) of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.  However, “[o]fficials with the HIDTA have strongly disavowed the training and in no uncertain terms said it has never endorsed using funds for the FAIR conference and wanted absolutely nothing to do with it,” according to the editorial.

Another group that should worry about its association with FAIR is a trio of Republican Senators—most of whom claim to be sticklers for following the rules and “doing things the right way.”  Not only is their association with anti-immigrant groups putting Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and David Vitter (R-LA) in conflict with the mainstream of public opinion on immigration reform, but it is also putting them in conflict with Senate ethics rules.  As Roll Call explains today, FAIR has embroiled Grassley, Sessions, and Vitter in a potential breach of Senate rules after soliciting funds at a press event sponsored by these senators.

While the potential rules violations are of consequence, a larger point remains: why are Republican leaders continuing to associate with an organization that has been designated an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and whose policy positions are far outside the mainstream?  In addition to the afore-mentioned senators, notorious anti-immigrant activist Kris Kobach – you know, Mitt Romney’s immigration policy advisor and the architect behind the Arizona and Alabama state approaches to immigration – is the former senior counsel for FAIR’s legal arm and maintains close ties with the organization.  Thankfully, more and more observers are recognizing that FAIR’s associations and policy prescriptions are disturbing and have no place in the national immigration reform debate.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “When will Republican leaders realize that associating with anti-immigrant groups is not only bad for the country, but bad for their party?  A North Carolina paper is taking local leaders to task for working with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and we have to do the same with our national leaders.  Extremism and hate have no place in the immigration debate.”

There are signs that at least some in the Republican Party are starting to understand the political dangers of aligning with the anti-immigrant groups and their agenda.  According to an article from Howard Kurtz, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham staged a private intervention for Mitt Romney after he infamously declared that the solution to unauthorized immigration is “self-deportation” of anyone here without papers.  “Self-deportation” is the Kobach and FAIR-endorsed alternative to legalizing some undocumented immigrants with ties and roots in the United States.  After the intervention by McCain and Graham, Romney agreed to stop using the phrase ‘self-deportation,’ but still did not disavow the policy.

“Mitt Romney’s support for the anti-immigrant agenda is making it impossible for him to win over Latino voters in a growing number of swing states.  Poll after poll also show that his immigration positions are out of step with those held by most Americans.  When it comes to immigration, Romney chose sides during the Republican primary, and he chose the wrong one,” said Tramonte.


 America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.