By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
BIRMINGHAM—Today, The United States Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public field hearing on the effects of recently enacted state immigration laws on the civil rights of individuals.
The commission was created under the Civil Rights Act of 1957, its stated mission is to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws.
The commission is composed of eight Commissioners: Four appointed by the President and four by Congress. Not more than four members shall at any one time be of the same political party.
Many civil and human rights leaders in Alabama have grave concerns about certain individuals and groups that are speaking before the commission.
On Thursday, a conference was held to informed the media of their concerns.
Alabama Coalition for Immigration Justice (ACIJ) sponsored the media briefing to alert the press as to who those individuals and groups were.
Alabama’s controversial immigration law which has become know simply as HB56 will be the focus of the civil rights hearing.
The ACIJ has characterized HB56 as a “Civil rights disaster and human right crisis.” They also said that they believe that the speakers before the commission will not fully represent those who are most involved in promoting civil right and that there are “deep concerns over those [speaking] who have been deemed hate groups.”
Heidi Beirich who is the Intelligence Project Director, for the SPLC, led the briefing on those who the ACIJ holds suspect.
Beirich, says one of the groups of most concern is The Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
According to Beirch FAIR has been listed as a “Hate Group” by the SPLC since 2007. She says that the groups leader Dan Stein, “Has repeatedly attacked the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which was aimed at reforming a racist quota system that basically restricted immigration to Northern Europeans.” Beirich also said that Stien “has characterized the act as a disaster for Western civilization and Anglo-Saxon dominance.” This statement and more can be found at the SPLC website.
The SPLC and Beirch criticize FAIR’s founder John Tanton “for taking funding for many years from the Pioneer Fund, a non-profit foundation dedicated to ‘improving the character of the American people’ by, among other things, promoting the practice of eugenics, or selective breeding.”
However, FAIR says that it “is a national non-profit, public-interest, membership organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation’s immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest. FAIR seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with more traditional rates of about 300,000 a year.”
As startling these accusations are there seems to be a long paper trail, not made by the lawyers of the SPLC.
The next group that is “troubling” is NumbersUSA. The groups says of itself that it is, “An Education & Research Foundation that provides a civil forum for Americans of all political and ethnic backgrounds to focus on a single issue, the numerical level of U.S. immigration.”
NumbersUSA, is another group with deep ties to John Tanton.
NumbersUSA was founded in 1997 by Roy Beck while he worked for Tanton.
The group according to Beirich is part of a network of “anti-immigration organizations created by the racist, Tanton.”
Another organization that Beirich says is a problem for fair testimony is The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
CIS says that, “Since our founding in 1985, we have pursued a single mission–providing immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States.”
However, those at the ACIJ press briefing have characterize CIS as an organizations that “has blamed immigrants, both legal and undocumented, for everything from terrorism to global warming. To make its case seem as strong as possible, CIS often manipulates data, relying on shaky statistics or faulty logic to come to the preordained conclusion that immigration is bad for this country.”
According to the ACIJ perhaps most “disturbing” of the individuals to speak before the panel on civil rights is, Kris Kobach. According to the ACIJ, Kobach is credited with being the author of HB 56, “He has led Alabama down terrible path,” said Beirich. Kobach is an attorney for FAIR and is also the Kansas Secretary of State. Those at ACIJ are outraged that Kobach has been “given a prominent place, at Friday’s commission hearings. Kobach, is referred by the conference speakers as a “nativist” who has created laws that have caused a “humanitarian disaster in Alabama.”
Alabamians speaking before the commission will included, Chris England, Representative, Alabama House of Representatives; Scott Beason, Senator, Alabama Senate; William Lawrence, Principal, Foley Elementary School; Steve Marshall, District Attorney, Marshall County; and Isabel Rubio, Executive Director, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama.
The meeting is to began 9:00 a.m., at the Sheraton Hotel, Birmingham Ballroom. The public is invited to attend.