Extreme Anti-Immigrant Groups Oppose Mass. Bill to Protect Immigrant Rights

June 16, 2017

A recent hearing on a legislative proposal in Massachusetts that would ensure that state and local resources are not used for federal immigration enforcement attracted hundreds of activists and community members, packing two hearing rooms. Immigrants and advocates in support of the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act spoke to the fear and distrust of local law enforcement that resonates in immigrant communities particularly with current federal immigration policies, deterring immigrants and people living in immigrant communities from reporting crimes.

The bill would strengthen partnerships between law enforcement and immigrant communities, encouraging immigrants to come forward when they have been the victim of or witness to a crime, would provide basic due process guarantees to individuals detained in state and local facilities for civil immigration violations, and would create important protections for immigrants’ civil rights and human rights.

The hearing, however, also illuminated the primary opposition to this measure. Jessica Vaughan from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Jonathan Hanen from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), both extreme anti-immigrant groups testified in opposition to the bill.

FAIR and CIS have long been part of the anti-immigrant movement in the United States. John Tanton, a racist and the architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement, had a hand in the creation of both organizations. Tanton founded FAIR in 1979 with the idea of limiting both undocumented and legal immigration in the U.S. and with the idea of preserving a white majority in the country. In a 1993 letter to a professor, he wrote, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” Tanton also corresponded with white supremacists and anti-Semites. In addition, he published The Social Contract, an anti-immigrant publication edited by white supremacist Wayne Lutton.

FAIR also has a troubling history. The group reportedly accepted over $1 million dollars in the 1980s and 1990s from The Pioneer Fund, a foundation that promoted the study of eugenics. In addition, FAIR hired a member of a white supremacist group to be a field organizer in the mid-2000s. Today, FAIR promotes anti-immigrant legislation and puts many of its resources into fighting against pro-immigration measures on the local and state level, particularly through its legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). IRLI has been behind some of the harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the country,

CIS has also been very active on the anti-immigrant front since it was founded in 1985, with the help of Tanton. It publishes reports and articles promoting the idea that immigration has a detrimental impact on American society. CIS also has some disturbing ties to racists. It often circulates articles penned by white nationalists and commissioned Jason Richwine, who has promoted racist ideas, to write articles and reports for the organization.

In addition, Mark Krikorian, the head of CIS, has published articles in The Social Contract alongside those from extremists. Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for CIS, has appeared as a guest on a radio show hosted by far-right conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles. She also granted an interview in April 2014 to American Free Press, an anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented publication.