The Spectacle Blog

Report: How Southern Poverty Law Center Smeared Immigration Group

By on 3.19.10 | 11:18AM

Jerry Kammer of the Center for Immigration Studies describes how the SPLC, the National Council for La Raza and the open-borders group America's Voice combined in a campaign to drive the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) out of the immigration debate:

The Southern Poverty Law Center's December 2007 announcement that it had decided to designate the Federation for American Immigration Reform as a "hate group" was a dramatic move by the Alabama-based organization, which claims to be "dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry."
The designation placed FAIR, one of the most prominent organizations that favor reduced immigration and oppose a sweeping legalization of illegal immigrants, on an SPLC list occupied by notoriously bigoted groups of racist skinheads, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan. . . .
The SPLC's move was not an act of conscience. Nor was it the bark of a public-interest watchdog. It was a publicity stunt in the service of the National Council of La Raza, which was about to launch a campaign intended to drive FAIR from the arena of public debate on national immigration policy. . . .
The campaign's strategy was to portray FAIR as an extremist organization, so tainted by hatred and racism that it should be excluded from the public discussion of immigration. La Raza president and CEO Janet Murguia personally led the attack. Appearing on the Lou Dobbs show in early 2008, she cited the SPLC's designation and declared, "FAIR is a known, documented hate group."
Another NCLR ally in the campaign was a new organization called America's Voice, whose work to influence public opinion on immigration policy is being funded by a $6 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, a philanthropic foundation. America's Voice is directed by Frank Sharry, who for 17 years was executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which bills itself as "the nation's premier immigrant rights organization." Its board of directors includes representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and the American Nursery & Landscape Association.
As reported in the Carnegie Corporation's magazine, America's Voice was launched as a "communications effort designed to more directly challenge those who oppose immigration reform." The organization sponsored full-page ads that touted the SPLC's "hate group" declaration in Politico and Roll Call, Capitol Hill newspapers that are widely read by congressional staff and other members of the Washington political establishment.
"The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is Designated a HATE GROUP by the Southern Poverty Law Center," said the ad, using red capital letters to highlight "FAIR" and "HATE GROUP." It added, "Extremist groups, like FAIR, shouldn't write immigration policy." . . .

That's from a 28-page report (PDF), which also includes this:

Laird Wilcox is the principal donor of the files, journals, and books in the massive Wilcox Collection of Political Movements in the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas. . . .
Wilcox, who was a student radical in the 1960s and now calls himself "a classical free-speech liberal," has observed the SPLC for years. "They want to marginalize certain points of view in our society, and they do it by acting like a kind of certifying agency that decides who is extremist and who isn't," he said. . . .
Wilcox says compliant, unquestioning reporters have been key to the SPLC's efforts. "The media has just rolled over for them," he said. . . .
The Des Moines Register has been particularly sympathetic to the SPLC and La Raza. It quoted one immigration advocate who criticized radio hosts for participating in an event sponsored by FAIR. "It'd be the same thing if the radio talk show hosts had agreed to a radio event hosted by the KKK," she said. Such slanted coverage has been helpful to the SPLC's campaign to smear FAIR and, by extension, other organizations that favor reduced levels of immigration. . . .

Read the whole thing.

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