HIAS Praises Report Exposing Anti-Immigration Groups as Vehicles of Racist Fringe

Posted on Fri, Feb 06, 2009 at 15:24 pm

(New York, NY)– Gideon Aronoff, President & CEO of HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish community, today praised the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for their report that exposes three organizations responsible for blocking comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 and earlier, as part of a network of groups created by John Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist who has been at the heart of the movement to reduce or eliminate legal immigration and refugee resettlement for decades.

“This report confirms that which all of us in favor of just and compassionate immigration laws have known for a long time – that the policies of these three high-profile groups are intertwined with the ideology of the nativist fringe,” said Aronoff.

The three groups – the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and NumbersUSA – have been outspoken critics of comprehensive immigration reform. Their penetration in the Jewish community has been primarily through appearances before Jewish groups by Steven Steinlight, senior policy analyst at CIS, and opinion pieces and interviews in the Jewish press. His legitimacy is enhanced because he previously worked for a Jewish organization. Likewise, the three organizations have also attempted to penetrate the African-American and Latino communities through a similar model.

According to Aronoff, “We are grateful to the SPLC for finally exposing the connection between these organizations and the nativist views of their founder, and hope that this radically reduces the legitimacy and credibility of FAIR and its sister organizations.

“While there is a broad spectrum of credible opinion within the debate on immigration reform, these organizations do not represent legitimate arguments. Their aggressive public relations strategies and well-crafted messages are nothing less than vehicles to fulfill the hate rhetoric consistent with Tanton’s racist messages.”

This week, the SPLC issued The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance, which describes how FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA were founded and funded by Tanton, who operates a racist publishing company and has written that to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required.

The SPLC was founded in Montgomery, AL, in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm by two lawyers, Morris Dees and Joe Levin, who shared a commitment to racial equality. Today it is an internationally known non-profit organization dedicated to fighting all forms of discrimination. Since 1981, it has been vigorously investigating hate activity, monitoring hate groups, and tracking extremist activity throughout the United States.

HIAS, founded in 1881, has long advocated for fair and just immigration policies and laws. Last week it launched – with some two dozen organizational partners from the Jewish community across the country – Progress by Pesach, a grassroots campaign to urge the new administration and Congress to move immigration reform to the top of their agenda.