Immigrant-rights groups are criticizing the organizers of an upcoming radio event that will promote a crackdown on illegal immigration.
The groups accuse the Federation for American Immigration Reform of endorsing bigotry and racism. FAIR is sponsoring a broadcast marathon for Thursday and Friday in a downtown Des Moines hotel. The event is expected to attract 22 radio talk show hosts from across the country to discuss immigration.
‘We don’t agree with their views that are demonizing immigrants, and we don’t appreciate their coming to Iowa telling us what we should think about immigrants,’ said Alicia Claypool, chairwoman of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
Dan Stein, president of FAIR, said his group is being demonized. ‘They’re trying to discredit an entire side of the debate,’ Stein said.
FAIR held a similar radio event last spring in Washington that it claims influenced the U.S. Senate’s defeat of a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Critics have said FAIR’s hard anti-immigrant line has discouraged a fair debate. They note that the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, recently added FAIR to its list of hate groups operating in the United States.
Stein said the law center’s report contains ‘serious fabrications. . . . It’s absolutely defamatory.’
FAIR’s Web site—www.fairus.org—says the group advocates for improved border security, an end to illegal immigration, and immigration levels ‘consistent with more traditional rates of about 300,000 a year.’
The Center for New Community, a Chicago-based immigrant rights advocacy group, disagrees with FAIR’s purpose and encourages the hotel to cancel the event. The Rev. David Ostendorf, the center’s executive director, said hotels and other places ‘have no obligation to provide a platform for hate speech.’
Stein accused critics of the planned broadcasts of trying to obstruct free speech ‘and people’s right to be heard on public policy issues.’