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August 21, 2012

Anti-Immigrant Movement Dealt Blow by U.S. Appeals Court

On August 20, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a mixed ruling for recent anti-immigrant laws passed in Alabama and Georgia. For both laws, HB 56 and HB 87, the court followed the decision of the U.S.  Supreme Court earlier this summer regarding a similar Arizona law (Arizona et al v. United States). The appeals court thus upheld provisions in the two state laws that allowed police to check the immigration status of people suspected of committing a crime.

Mike Hethmon

The court, however, struck down other provisions of both states’ laws, including one of the major features of the Alabama law, a provision that required public schools to check the citizenship status of new students. This is a major blow to the anti-immigrant movement, which saw the provision as a significant step towards overturning the Supreme Court’s landmark 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision, which ruled that all children, regardless of their immigration status, are permitted to attend K-12 public schools in the United States.

Overturning Plyler v. Doe has been one of the anti-immigrant movement’s key long-term goals; many major anti-immigrant groups have spoken openly about overturning the decision. In November 2011, for example, the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) wrote hopefully about what Alabama’s HB 56 might accomplish: “Thus, the collection of immigration data regarding K-12 students in Alabama (and indeed in other states) could provide concrete evidence needed to revise the Supreme Court’s holding in Plyler v. Doe.” FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), actually helped draft HB 56. In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Mike Hethmon of IRLI said that the eventual goal was to challenge Plyler v. Doe.

Similarly, the Center for Immigration Studies, a major anti-immigration think tank, published a report in 2005 by Mark Levin that claimed that the Pyler v. Doe decision “is perhaps the most egregious of the Court’s immigration rulings.” Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, for many years the leading anti-immigrant voice in Arizona, also floated the idea of forcing undocumented children to pay tuition to attend public schools in his state. This, of course, would have been in direct violation of the Plyler v. Doe ruling.

The court’s decision on the school provision is thus not only a significant civil rights decision that protects children.  It also thwarts one of the key planks of the anti-immigrant movement’s agenda.

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August 17, 2012

Progressives for Immigration Reform Announces Conference and New Project

The president of Progressives for Immigration Reform, Phil Cafaro

The anti-immigrant group Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) has announced its third annual conference in Washington, D.C. scheduled for October 2012. In addition, the group is promoting their new project–a statement on the environmental impact of U.S. immigration policy.

PFIR was founded in 2009 claiming to “educate the public about the unintended consequences of mass migration.” In reality, PFIR is made up of a host of anti-immigrant figures, many of whom approach the issue of immigration from an environmental standpoint. PFIR’s use of the term “progressives” is an attempt to attract environmentalists and to coax them to view immigration as the cause of environmental problems.

Though the group has not yet announced the speakers at this year’s event, speakers in the past have included a host of figures from anti-immigrant groups , including Roy Beck from NumbersUSA and Steven Camarota from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Also in attendance last year was Mike Hethmon from the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The aim of PFIR’s new project is to determine the number of immigrants Congress should allow into the United States. For years, anti-immigrant groups have argued that not only should all undocumented immigration be prevented but that Congress should also dramatically decrease the number of legal immigrants entering the country each year. Extreme anti-immigrant groups such as FAIR have gone as far as to call for a temporary moratorium on all immigration to the United States.

The two principal investigators of PFIR’s new project are PFIR president Phil Cafaro and advisory board member Leon Kolankiewicz. Both have ties to other anti-immigrant groups.

Kolankiewicz has written reports for CIS primarily addressing the alleged environmental impact of immigration. He also co-authored a report with Beck, which blamed immigrants for America’s environmental problems. Kolankiewicz is a senior writing fellow for the California-based anti-immigrant group Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS).  In addition, he has written over a half dozen articles for The Social Contract, an anti-immigrant journal published by racist John Tanton.

Cafaro was formerly a fellow at CIS and wrote a number of reports for the organization that attempted to blame immigrants for environmental degradation.

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