As our eyes seared from images of torch-wielding protesters and bare-faced white supremacists sowing violent chaos in the streets of small-town Virginia last August, Americans expressed collective horror. After President Donald Trump’s comparison of white supremacists to civil rights supporters, respected voices on both sides of the aisle condemned his words. Now we see Trump’s equivocation again — this time towards the DACA Program, which has allowed 800,000 young men and women brought here as children to contribute to their communities, to work, go to school and to live without fear of being torn from their families.
The president has made whiplash-inducing flip-flops on DACA, a program that enjoys overwhelming support from the American public. Recent polls show that 78 percent of American voters believe these young people (known as Dreamers) should be allowed to stay in the United States — including 73 percent of Trump voters — and half agree Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship.
If Americans display unity in condemning fascism, and staunch support for immigrants brought here as children, then why are those with white supremacist ties making and enforcing our immigration policy?
White supremacists are not new to policy-making but have worked to shape the immigration debate for decades. When the media covers immigration, including Trump’s DACA reversal, it often turns to groups such as FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform). The media asks FAIR to make the “anti-immigration” case, (as in a USA Today op-ed), but overlooks their extremism. Financial supporters of FAIR include foundations linked to the Ku Klux Klan and the (now defunct) Pioneer Fund, which the Wall Street Journal called “a white-supremacist outfit devoted to racial purity through eugenics.”
While we thought eugenics lay on the ash heap of history after World War II, in 1979 eugenicist and white nationalist John Tanton founded FAIR, a Washington, D.C., “think-tank,” devoted to keeping a white majority in the U.S. by reducing immigration. But even limiting immigration is not enough for FAIR, as the Center for New Community alleges that, “Many FAIR officials have advocated for extreme population control measures pushing for forced sterilization by designing, promoting and distributing ‘off-label permanent birth control’ for women.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center named FAIR a hate group in 2007, yet its influence has grown. Trump appointed Julie Kirchner, FAIR’s former executive director, head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. When Kirchner led FAIR, the group regularly welcomed prominent white nationalists to its yearly Capitol Hill lobbying events. At Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Jon Feere is now adviser to acting director Thomas Homan. Feere has used his Twitter account to endorse articles from anti-immigrant hate site VDARE, which routinely publishes anti-Semitic and white supremacist writers. Feere published an August 2015 op-ed in the Hill that detailed options for Trump to end birthright citizenship.
Support for revoking birthright citizenship now extends to the highest levels of law enforcement, including both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump. And should you find yourself thinking, “Well, immigration issues aren’t about me,” think again. Ask yourself, where will the administration’s anti-immigration policies end? Do you really want Trump and a handful of individuals with ties to white nationalists deciding who should be in this country? If you ever said an unkind word about Trump, will the government strip you of your citizenship too?
If we do not want white nationalists marching in our streets, we must not allow them to shape our laws. Call your legislators and urge them to reject white supremacy by passing the DREAM Act, without enforcement provisions that force Dreamers to tear their families apart. We must all — loudly and unequivocally — speak up for the Dreamers.
Laura Bandara is immigrant and refugee issue captain for Action Utah, a nonpartisan community engagement network that gives ordinary Utahns a voice.