Identification: Nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing high levels of immigration to the United States
Date: Established on January 2, 1979
Also known as: FAIR
Significance: Recognized as the leading anti-immigration group in the United States, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has received support from numerous celebrities and politicians and claims membership from both conservative and liberal party supporters, whose donations make possible the high visibility FAIR receives through its many advertising campaigns. FAIR specifically supports improving the security of America’s borders, documenting all noncitizen residents, and implementing a documentation-verification system.
A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, FAIR was started by John Tanton, the founder of several antiimmigration groups in the United States. He built FAIR upon the principle that high levels of immigration increase overpopulation and pollution that damage the environment. FAIR also maintains that high immigration hurts the national economy by raising unemployment levels due to the influx of job candidates. FAIR has consistently condemned companies that have hired undocumented workers, who FAIR charge take jobs that should go to American citizens. In addition, FAIR maintains that the welfare system has been flooded due to the congestion of workers and lack of jobs.
FAIR’s purpose is not to halt immigration completely, but to reduce its rate to about 30 percent of its current annual levels. It has outlined a number of principles for immigration reform:
FAIR’S opposition to certain immigration reformproposals has contributed the defeat of some measures in Congress. A notable example was the so-called H1B Visa program, which was designed to attract more high-technology workers during the 1990’s. Arguing that high-tech companies wished to hire foreign workers only because they could be paid cheaper wages, FAIR led a campaign to defeat this bill. FAIR also complained that the bill had no stipulation requiring companies to hire American workers first, which would have meant that Americans might lose out on high-paying jobs to cheaper foreign workers.
FAIR has also supported other congressional bills that have not been made into law. Its Web site reports regularly on current immigration legislation, including a call by the organization’s president, Dan Stein, urging Congress to pass H.R. 1940, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2007. This bill sought to eliminate the automatic granting of U.S. citizenship to all persons born in the United States, regardless of their parents’ legal status. Stein supported the proposal on the grounds that it would eliminate the problem of “anchor babies,” a derogatory term for children born in the United States to illegal immigrants. The bill sought to amend immigration law to grant citizen status only to children born with at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in April, 2007, but was never moved to a vote in either the House or the Senate.
FAIR has faced its share of controversies, particularly criticisms that it has used racist and unfair tactics in its ad campaigns. For example, the group’s inflammatory attack on Michigan senator Spencer Abraham was condemned as a smear campaign when it displayed a picture of Abraham standing alongside the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, while denouncing him for his efforts to block Section 110 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2001. That section proposed the creation of a database for all border entry points that would record the arrivals and departures of all noncitizens. Senator Abraham claimed that this would cause undue delays at the already congested borders, particularly in his own state of Michigan, where delays of two-four hours at the Detroit-Windsor border were common.WhenAbraham was up for reelection against FAIR’s founder John Tanton in 2000, FAIR ran advertisements opposing him. These ads depicted Abraham, who happens to be of Lebanese Arab descent, as a terrorist supporter.
FAIR maintains a large and frequently updated presence on the World Wide Web. Its official Web site, at www.fairus.org, provides up-to-date commentaries on immigration bills under consideration in the U.S. Congress and offers detailed analyses of current immigration issues and how they affect different facets of American life, from national security and jobs to environmental issues. One of the site’s many features is a time line called “Chronology of Terror,” which provides a year-byyear analysis, since 1990, of how known international terrorists have taken advantage of residence in the United States before committing violent acts abroad and within U.S. borders.
Tanton himself has been labeled a racist, and FAIR was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007. Other organizations that Tanton has founded include NumbersUSA, a body with the same basic objectives as FAIR. He also founded the Social Contract Press, a publishing company that specializes in anti-immigration books.
FAIR has also come under attack for its receipt of donations from the Pioneer Fund, an organization that supports eugenics research. Other criticisms have been aimed at remarks made by Dan Stein, which have been labeled anti-Catholic and xenophobic. FAIR has also been criticized for utilizing scare tactics in its campaign advertisements, which indicate that the level of immigration is so dangerously high that it might threaten America’s ability to survive.
See also: Eugenics movement; Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986; Language issues; Refugees; Welfare and social services.