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November 9, 2012

Key Coalition of Anti-Immigrant State Lawmakers Declines by 30% after Election

State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), a coalition of lawmakers working to introduce and pass anti-immigrant legislation at the state level, will lose members when the new legislatures convene in January. Starting in 2013, the coalition will officially drop from 68 members to 49, a decline of more than 30%. The coalition not only loses size but scope, with representation dropping from 40 states to 33.

The coalition, started by Pennsylvania Representative Daryl Metcalfe, is very closely tied to the anti-immigrant movement in the United States. The coalition’s website currently boasts 68 members from 40 states. While these numbers are slightly exaggerated because they include some members who are no longer elected representatives (Russell Pearce, for example, the former Arizona State Senator was recalled in 2011), the additional loss of 19 members will result in a far smaller coalition.

In the 2012 elections, many SLLI members did not run for reasons ranging from term limit restrictions, to running for another public sector position or choosing retirement. The decline in SLLI membership is a blow to the anti-immigrant movement, which partially relies on SLLI members to push anti-immigrant legislation.

Just a few months after SLLI’s founding in 2007, Daryl Metcalfe was joined by Dan Stein, president of the largest anti-immigrant group in the United States, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Mike Hethmon of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), FAIR’s legal arm, at a press conference. At the press conference, SLLI announced that it had “entered into a working partnership” with IRLI. Essentially, IRLI works with SLLI members to draft anti-immigrant legislation which the SLLI member then introduces in his/her state legislature. This partnership has been effective, most notably in Arizona where then-SLLI member Russell Pearce worked with IRLI to draft the harshest anti-immigrant bill at the time, SB 1070.

Unfortunately, the decline in SLLI membership will likely not spell a decline in the amount of anti-immigrant legislation introduced at the state level. The anti-immigrant movement does not rely solely on SLLI to introduce legislation that it drafts. In Alabama, for example, IRLI drafted HB 56, a law even harsher than Arizona’s SB 1070, but did not court a SLLI member to introduce the bill.

It remains to be seen whether Metcalfe will attempt to recruit new members for his coalition post-election. Regardless, the anti-immigrant movement, and more specifically IRLI, will continue to draft anti-immigrant legislation based on its “attrition through enforcement” (self-deportation) model and seek out lawmakers in states around the country willing to introduce it.

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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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