By Terry Greene Sterling
The Village Voice
December 1, 2010
On June 5, hundreds rallied at the Wesley Bolin Memorial
Plaza in Phoenix in support of SB 1070, the harshest
state immigration law in the nation, which had been
signed by Governor Jan Brewer six weeks earlier.
The crowd of mostly middle-aged, working-class Anglos
waved handmade signs blaring such things as:
"14 Million Jobless Americans; 13 Million Illegals, DO
THE MATH, MR. PRESIDENT."
"SB 1070 is not racist!"
It was a hot day. People were sunburned. Some wore
American-flag shirts, American-flag baseball caps, or
American-flag necklaces. Some carried American flags.
They stood in the sun to hear a lineup of speakers
deliver the same victory-themed message: Americans are
under siege by hordes of illegal invaders who steal
their jobs and suck up public benefits and, in this
economy, how much more can Americans be expected to
The call-to-arms message: Enough is enough, rise up, get
active, donate, vote, stop illegal immigration now -
before it's too late.
The orators included black activist Ted Hayes ("Amnesty
is racist. This country doesn't belong to anyone else
but us"), Colonel Al Rodriguez ("Mexicans, you don't
speak for me"), Terry Anderson, the now-deceased
California radio talk-show host ("Jackpot babies"),
NumbersUSA lobbyist Rosemary Jenks ("Amnesty destroys
America"), immigration hardliner and soon-to-lose
Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo ("Barack
Obama . . . will open our borders"), and the self-
professed author and sponsor of Arizona Senate Bill
1070, state Senator Russell Pearce.
Dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans, Pearce
beamed as the crowd chanted gratitude for SB 1070:
"Thank you, Russell. Thank you, Russell."
Pearce joked about how maybe Barack Obama himself didn't
Then he justified SB 1070 by reciting the "hard costs"
of illegal immigration to Arizona taxpayers - $2.7
billion in a time of "high unemployment and record
Later, J.D. Hayworth, an immigration hardliner, former
talk-show host, and U.S. Senate candidate who would soon
be clobbered in the Republican primary by John McCain,
began his $25-a-plate fundraising barbecue in the plaza.
Pearce and Tancredo, who are friends and political
allies, were among the featured speakers at the Hayworth
fundraiser. They enthused about what was to be Pearce's
next legislative effort, in 2011, to challenge the 14th
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying American
citizenship to Arizona babies born to undocumented
Like many successful illegal-immigration populists,
Russell Pearce gets his "hard costs of illegal
immigration," and his talking points, from the
Federation for American Immigration Reform, a
Washington, D.C.-based, self-described public interest
nonprofit founded in 1979.
For years, FAIR has issued reports detailing how illegal
immigrants damage the economy, steal American jobs,
sponge public benefits, and commit heinous crimes.
The nonprofit allies itself with other groups and
activists who share FAIR's point of view, and although
FAIR takes a backseat at anti-illegal-immigration
rallies, its presence is pervasive. At the June 5 rally
in Phoenix, for instance, almost every speaker had ties
Thanks to grassroots organizing, Washington politicking,
and faithful donors, FAIR has changed the immigration
debate in the United States. It has successfully blocked
progressive immigration reform, including what it calls
"amnesty" - legalization of non-criminal undocumented
immigrants (including magna cum laude college graduates)
who have lived in the United States for decades.
After it helped insert SB 1070 into the Arizona Revised
Statutes, FAIR turned its attention to its favorite
cause: "birthright citizenship" legislation that would
challenge the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment gives citizenship to most babies born in
the United States, and FAIR wants to change that so
babies born to undocumented immigrant parents will be
denied citizenship. Such children are derided as
"jackpot babies" or "anchor babies."
FAIR and its sister nonprofits - NumbersUSA, which also
lobbied successfully to squash immigration reform in
2007, and the Center for Immigration Studies, which
refers to itself as a non-partisan pro-immigrant think
tank - cite each other's reports and studies and post
each other's findings on their websites.
Reporters often quote experts from the three groups as
credible mainstream voices of dissent to progressive
immigration reform, even though several human rights
organizations have flagged FAIR as a white-nationalist
hate group, and have tied CIS and Numbers USA to white
nationalists and hate groups.
Though these three groups maintain that the hate
designations are arbitrary and untrue, the vitriolic
rhetoric at the root of these organizations'
sensibilities scalds the ear.
"As whites see their power and control over their lives
declining, will they simply go quietly into the night?
Or will there be an explosion?" asked retired
ophthalmologist Dr. John Tanton, founder of all three of
these oft-cited groups.
The legal arm of FAIR, the Immigration Reform Law
Institute, lists Yale Law School grad Kris Kobach as its
national constitutional law expert. Kobach was key in
drafting SB 1070 and served as a legal adviser for the
Maricopa County Attorney's Office until Andrew Thomas
stepped down to run (unsuccesfully) for higher office
and his replacement, Rick Romley, fired Kobach 's firm.
Now, Kobach is the newly elected Kansas secretary of
state, where he faced criticism, during the race, for
scaremongering by exaggerating voter fraud and linking
it to immigrants.
Arizona long has been an experimental legal laboratory
for FAIR, a place to test increasingly harsh laws -
2004's Prop 200, the human-smuggling law, the employer-
sanctions law, SB 1070, and the promised birthright-
[moderator: to read the rest of this story -
Editor's note: Former New Times staff writer Terry
Greene Sterling is the author of the new book Illegal:
Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone and is
writer-in-residence at the Walter Cronkite School of
Journalism at Arizona State University. Jennifer Gaie
Hellum assisted with research on white-nationalist
groups. Sterling's personal Web site is
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