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FAIR Statement Regarding A Recent Report Published By The Southern Poverty Law Center

by Dan Stein of The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

December 14, 2007: In the wake of the defeat of the Bush-Kennedy mass amnesty bill, a handful of organizations have attacked the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) for its efforts to lead a national debate on how America thinks about immigration and its role in the 21st Century. These reports are clearly an orchestrated attempt at political retaliation.

The most recent report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has crossed the line. It demonstrates a lack of internal fact-checking standards and an inability to grasp the complexities of immigration policy and the current public dialogue surrounding it. It also demonstrates why those supporting mass amnesty lost the immigration debate earlier this year. That is, instead of tackling a tough, complex and emotional policy debate on the merits, the SPLC chooses to preach intolerance by insisting that there can be no legitimate opposing side on the debate over immigration reform. Its objectives are always the same: to try to discredit Americans who want the nation’s immigration laws and policies changed to reflect the broad national interest. When one takes into account that FAIR has hundreds of thousands of members and that the policies and positions FAIR advocates are supported by the vast majority of the American people, one wonders why the SPLC did not save itself time and money and simply declare the entire United States a “hate group.”

This aside, FAIR wishes to state for the record that the SPLC statement is replete with accusations that have no factual basis. Moreover, the material facts that are offered in the SPLC statement are either false or misleading. In light of the fact that FAIR has requested the SPLC to correct these errors on at least three different occasions dating back to 2001, the publication of this erroneous information appears to be willful and malicious. Unfortunately, FAIR’s requests continue to go unanswered and the SPLC continues to publish and circulate this erroneous information. FAIR urges readers of the SPLC report to search the text for footnotes and citations. Given the magnitude and scope of their allegations, we believe most readers will be appalled to find few, if any citations.

The main charge against FAIR seems to be that it enjoys credibility in the media and with the American people. The core of the allegation is that this should not be the case. First, they claim, the organization received general operating funds years ago (amounting to 1/90th of FAIR’s overall income) from a foundation that years earlier is alleged to have “unsavory ties to Nazism.” While this charge makes no assertions about actions and statements FAIR took in its official capacity, the words imply that FAIR somehow shares motivations, purposes, etc., with the Pioneer Fund.

FAIR rejects even the basis for this innuendo. The SPLC’s characterization of the Pioneer Fund is fraudulent. The Fund’s mission statement clearly states that it supports equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, national origin or ethnicity. Nearly all of the grants made by the Pioneer Fund have gone to major, respected research institutions and universities around the world. This list of grant recipients includes: four campuses of the University of California system, City College of New York, University of Connecticut, University of Illinois, Johns Hopkins University, University of London, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, University of Montevallo, New York University, Smith College, University of Texas at Austin, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell Medical School, Brandeis University, University of Sao Paolo, University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto, and Randolph-Macon College. In addition, any grants made to FAIR (and FAIR has not received any such money in over 15 years) were for general operating funds to be used to further FAIR’s mission statement.

The SPLC also assails FAIR by attacking the alleged comments and actions of a handful of people who have been connected with FAIR at various levels over FAIR’s 29-year existence. To carry out these attacks, the SPLC makes blatantly inaccurate statements and takes quotes entirely out of context to distort their meaning. For example, FAIR has never hired anyone who was a member of a “white supremacist group.” Craig Nelsen was never on FAIR’s Board of Directors. FAIR president Dan Stein never sought advice from “the leaders of a racist Belgian political party.” And the list goes on. If the SPLC had done a minimal amount of fact-checking, it would have realized that there was no factual basis to any of these claims. In fact, reading the statement, it is clear that the organization had no intent of setting forth facts pertaining to FAIR. Instead, the SPLC has strung together a collection of conclusory statements under the guise of a “report” to give them some semblance of credibility.

What is even more remarkable is that the SPLC unilaterally concludes that FAIR is an illegitimate public policy organization without spending one sentence discussing substantive immigration policy or examining any of the reams of professional material issued by the organization and posted for public review on FAIR’s website ( At the same time, the SPLC seems perplexed that FAIR has strong and lasting credibility with the media and Congress. FAIR is indeed consulted by news organizations all over the world such as the New York Times, CNN, and Univision that are interested in reporting on immigration policy in the United States. They look to FAIR time and time again for fact-based, insightful analyses of policy, legislation, and technical aspects of the debate. The SPLC’s assertion that the mainstream media has been fooled into relying on FAIR for policy expertise is predicated on the notion that, over the course of 29 years, not one news service has been capable or sufficiently competent to examine FAIR’s policies and credibility. Instead, the SPLC insists that it is the only group out there that knows the truth.

FAIR is highly respected for the very reason that it has always argued that immigration policy should not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion. FAIR is a large, prominent national organization with hundreds of thousands of members and supporters. Its board of directors and advisory board contain people from across the political spectrum. Indeed, that is why FAIR has become the leader in this movement: we are a broad spectrum of people working hard to advance the way America understands the role of immigration in the U.S. in the 21st century. We urge everyone to look at FAIR’s 29-year record of public service and advocacy. We urge everyone to look at what we say and what we stand for and see why FAIR is the leading public charity working to reform immigration policies in the United States today.

Organizations that resort to such tactics in trying to discredit opposing organizations and individuals should be examined very closely as to their own motivations and purposes. It is our experience that groups who throw spiteful insults at their opposition are unable to win the public policy debate on the merits. The SPLC’s motivation for its pronouncement is further called into question given the timing of its release. The SPLC has published this information repeatedly over the past 15 years in an attempt to discredit FAIR. The most recent instance was a press conference two months ago in Washington D.C. held with the Center for American Progress and the Center for New Community—a press conference that received no media attention. It is clear that this new tactic of calling FAIR a “hate group” is an act of desperation, resulting from the SPLC’s failure to convince the American people of their viewpoint.

Moreover, we feel that the groups that assert that there is only one legitimate position in any public policy debate are the organizations that should truly be under public scrutiny. Do the SPLC’s actions not constitute the very definition of intolerance? FAIR encourages reporters to ask the Southern Poverty Law Center the following questions:

  1. As a portion of total income, what percent of the SPLC programs go to alleviating poverty? Does the SPLC provide legal services to the poor?
  2. What charity rating service gives the SPLC a satisfactory mark or grade or seal of approval as being in compliance with all their standards for the operations of a charity?
  3. What are the internal review standards applied by the SPLC before it publishes information?
  4. Does the SPLC provide the public an opportunity to correct materials published on its web site?
  5. How does the SPLC believe long-range U.S. immigration policy should be formulated? Whose interests should be considered and how?
  6. What are the standards used by the SPLC to designate an organization a “hate group”? How is a hate group defined? What are the objective standards and are they available for public inspection?

I remain willing to meet with Mr. Morris Dees, founder of the SPLC and chief trial counsel, at any time to work on areas of common understanding and agreement. However, the questions listed above are just a sampling of questions journalists should be asking the SPLC right now. The SPLC has rebuffed any effort to engage in serious policy debate not just with FAIR, but with the American people. That organization is no longer sought out for any serious policy analysis and has become little more than an organization seeking purpose by denouncing those with opposing viewpoints. FAIR is proud of its work and accomplishments in the area of immigration reform.

About The Author

Dan Stein is the Executive Director of The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a national, nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation's immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.