GOP immigration meeting featured radical right groups with white supremacist ties

Republican legislators Monday hosted an informational meeting to discuss immigration in Colorado, but the Colorado Independent has learned two of the presenters invited to speak were from organizations founded by white supremacist John Tanton. One of those organizations, The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

In addition to FAIR, The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) — which also presented at the meeting — was founded by Tanton.

Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform addresses legislators (Photo: Kersgaard)

Tanton has argued that for U.S. culture to survive, the country must maintain a clear white majority. The SPLC refers to him as the “racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“My contact with both those organizations can be boiled down to what we heard today,” the meeting’s host, state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said after the meeting. “I was quite impressed with both those people, (Jessica Vaughn with CIS and Jack Martin with FAIR). I thought they had their facts before them and that they presented good information.

“If you’re trying to say they have an agenda, well, I don’t know about that, but I do know the Southern Poverty Law Center has an agenda that I have never been impressed with,” Lundberg added.

FAIR has received more than $1 million from The Pioneer Fund, which promotes the genetic superiority of white people.

Monday’s meeting was hosted by the Republican Study Committee of Colorado (RSCC). Legislators heard from eight people, representing several anti-illegal immigration groups and including two business people who told the committee that not hiring illegal immigrants puts them at a competitive disadvantage in the market.

Lundberg, chairman of the RSCC, also chaired the meeting, held at the State Capitol. “The objective for today is to put as many facts on the table as we can,” he said.

He said he was happy with the meeting. “It accomplished what I said it would. It helped us explore a little more deeply the effects of illegal immigration in Colorado. It showed us that the economy in Colorado is affected by the extra load of illegal job seekers,” Lundberg said.

“What part of illegal do we not understand?” he asked.

Even given that the playing field seemed a little slanted, there were some surprises.

Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, told the panel that illegal immigration was decreasing. She said that immigration — legal and illegal — was at record levels in both the 1990s and the 2000s, but that it has slowed down. Coupled with the slowdown, she said was the fact that illegal immigrants have been leaving Colorado at a higher rate recently than in the past.

Nationally, she said illegal immigration has fallen by about 10 percent recently.

The CIS website has this to say about the immigration debate: “Many of us at the Center are animated by a ‘low-immigration, pro-immigrant’ vision of an America that admits fewer immigrants but affords a warmer welcome for those who are admitted.”

She said there have been about 13 million legal immigrants to the U.S. in the last decade and about the same number of illegal immigrants. She said this has occurred while our economy has produced just one million new jobs in the 2000s. “This is in contrast to the 1990s when we experienced similar number of immigrants but we created 21 million new jobs. This tells us immigration does not self-regulate through economic cycles. It continues regardless of the economy. The reason we have this much immigration is because of our policies,” she said.

“Obviously, the United States has a very generous immigration policy,” she said. “What we are experiencing now is not a surge but a continuation of a steady uphill trend that started in the 1940s. We are in the midst of a vast social experiment.”

She said illegal immigrants account for about 10 percent of the country’s population gain in any given recent year.

In Colorado, she said there were about 449,000 immigrant to Colorado in 2000 and about 435,000 immigrants to the state in 2007, the last year for which good numbers were available. Today, she said, there are about 170,000 illegal immigrants in the state.

While the Southern Poverty Law Center does not list CIS as a hate group, it does offer a withering view of its scholarship, saying the group is dedicated to eliminating most immigration.

Martin, from FAIR, said his group worked with Arizona legislators in crafting their landmark anti-immigration legislation (SB 1070) and that they are prepared to help Colorado as well. “We stand ready to work with legislators anywhere such legislation is contemplated,” he said.

He said illegal immigration costs Colorado about $1.5 billion a year, mostly to educate the children of undocumented residents.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa talked about the importance of the Secure Communities program, which allows law enforcement agencies to more easily share information. He said Colorado agencies cannot participate until Gov. Bill Ritter authorizes their participation, which has not happened yet.

Not all law enforcement agencies are excited about the program, Here, the Pueblo County Sheriff explains his issues to The Pueblo Chieftain:

Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor said he is ambivalent about participating in the program.

When local law enforcement learns in the course of an investigation that someone is in the country illegally, that information is reported to the state and is available to ICE, he said. “I don’t see how Secure Communities is so different from what we’re doing now.”

An argument against participation, Kirk said, is that the program places additional costs on counties and municipalities for housing inmates beyond their normal stays in jail.

“Unfunded mandates are what the federal government is infamous for,” he said. “I’m opposed to any unfunded mandate that lands on the taxpayers of Pueblo County. Anything that deals with the population of our jail that is outside of our control, I’m philosophically opposed to.”

Ritter has asked for things that, so far, he has not gotten, again from The Chieftain:

“Gov.-elect Hickenlooper has said all along throughout the campaign that he supports Secure Communities,” spokesman Eric Brown said. But if the decision to join stretches into the Hickenlooper administration, the work and consideration that Ritter put into modifications will not be ignored, Brown said.

“I can’t imagine us starting over completely,” he said. “We’ll wait and see how things shake out between Gov. Ritter’s administration and ICE.”

9News reported Monday that there is some disagreement among Republicans about how to address immigration at the legislative level:

Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, plans to propose a different law that would also target illegal immigrants.

“We aren’t doing anything to solve the problem at the federal level or at the state level,” Harvey said.

He plans to carry a measure requiring all Colorado companies to use a free federal computer program called E-verify that checks Social Security numbers against job applicants.

“Every time we try to do something, the initiatives, the efforts are killed by Republicans and Democrats alike. We’re not taking this issue seriously and it’s continuing to impact our state budget and our economy,” Harvey said.

The Colorado Independent reported last week
that state Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, plans to introduce an Arizona-style bill early in the session.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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