As I've written a few times before, FAIR has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group." Helpful as always, I emailed this info into the studio by way of the KDKA's "instant access" email and then blogged about this rather minor event here.
Well Bob Dane, Communications Director for FAIR, responded. To me. Via my email address. I'm guessing he saw the blog post.
Good to know that such a local blog could pique the interest of such a large national non-profit organization - but I digress.
Dane sent me a copy of this document urging me to read it and, in an effort to undermine the SPLC's credibility, he told me that:
- the SPLC has no definition of "hate group"
- they use the term to describe any organization they don't like, and finally
- it's just a way for them to bolster their own fundraising.
If you closely and honestly examine FAIR’s agenda, you will see that many of our policies are designed to protect the “99%” from abuses by corporate America which desires to relentlessly flood the jobs market with unnecessary foreign labor. Immigration must serve our broad national interests – not political parties and not corporate welfare which occurs by way of availability to cheap and illegal workers that displace U.S. workers, corrode wages, increases income inequality and reduces the middle class overall.He also asked me to correct my earlier "smear." I wrote him back saying that there's nothing for me to correct. Unless the SPLC didn't call FAIR a "hate group" or they've since rescinded the charge (neither of which is true) what I posted is accurate.
But it leads to a deeper question: Is the charge valid? Does the SPLC have a valid point in calling FAIR a "hate group"?
Let me get the big stuff out of the way. From the FAIR document:
FAIR condemns any individual or group that engages in hateful or violent behavior, and has done so publicly on many occasions. While FAIR has been consistently critical of many aspects of U.S. immigration policy and long-term failures to adequately enforce immigration laws. We have a longstanding abiding policy of never advocating discriminatory immigration policies. If the record proves anything at all, it is that FAIR draws a clear distinction between immigration policy and immigrants. Immigration is an important public policy that can and must be debated openly; immigrants are human beings who must always be treated with respect and dignity. (page 4-5)The document then looks to discredit the SPLC on roughly the same points that Dane wrote to me about - adding a few pages on how they think the SPLC manipulates data.
I have to admit, though, that while it looks quite solid, little of it actually addresses the charge that the SPLC makes. For example, let's assume that everything FAIR says about the SPLC's fundraising is accurate. How would that invalidate the charge that they make about FAIR? That it's a "hate group"? It doesn't. Same goes with any question on how FAIR deals with data.
So why does the SPLC call FAIR a "hate group"? There's this reason (this is from 2007):
At the center of the Tanton web is the nonprofit Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the most important organization fueling the backlash against immigration. Founded by Tanton in 1979, FAIR has long been marked by anti-Latino and anti-Catholic attitudes. It has mixed this bigotry with a fondness for eugenics, the idea of breeding better humans discredited by its Nazi associations. It has accepted $1.2 million from an infamous, racist eugenics foundation. It has employed officials in key positions who are also members of white supremacist groups. Recently, it has promoted racist conspiracy theories about Mexico's secret designs on the American Southwest and an alternative theory alleging secret plans to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada. Just last February, a senior FAIR official sought "advice" from the leaders of a racist Belgian political party.None of which is actually addressed in the document FAIR sent me.
There are certainly some valid issues that need to be discussed over our nation's immigration policy and in doing so, good people in good conscience are going to disagree (doesn't mean that any of them are members of a hate group, however). But there's enough here that I'd have to say that the SPLC's charge has enough validity to be taken seriously.
And as far as validity of the data, the FBI links to the SPLC on its "Hate Crimes" page (look for the link under "resources"). If it's good enough for the FBI...