Earlier this week, the anti-immigrant organization Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a complaint against CASA de Maryland, an organization that has long fought for just and fair treatment of immigrants. IRLI has been an opponent of such efforts for social justice, belonging to the largest coalition of nativist groups in the country: the notorious John Tanton Network.
The white nationalist John Tanton founded IRLI to legally buttress his flagship organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), by hiring lawyers to craft anti-immigrant laws and represent nativists in their xenophobic causes. According to Tanton, IRLI “was structured in such a way that it could operate under FAIR’s tax exemption but have its own board”—thereby advancing his nativist ideals through legislatures and courts.
IRLI’s argument against CASA is that, as a not-for-profit organization, CASA has overstepped its bounds; using trumped up charges and nationalistic puffery, IRLI wants us to believe it’s a patriotic non-profit policing another. According to the Washington Times, “IRLI argues that CASA lobbies for legislation that would benefit immigrants and against bills that would crack down on illegal immigration.” That’s kind of funny, considering that IRLI writes some of the harshest anti-immigrant legislation on the books. Forget about lobbying; should any tax-exempt interest group be allowed to actually formulate our laws?
Kris Kobach, darling of the hard right and counsel for IRLI, has been credited for writing SB 1070 in Arizona and HB 56 in Alabama—two of the most severe immigration laws that sanction racial profiling and aim to keep immigrant children out of public schools. He has additionally helped to formulate, pass, and defend anti-immigrant legislation in a number of smaller municipalities across the United States.
IRLI frames all of this as a defense of Americans who are undergoing an attack by government bureaucrats who look out for immigrants more than their own; incidentally, this is also how IRLI frames its complaint against CASA: “CASA thinks it’s too big and well-connected to fail, like ACORN did, but there are watchdog organizations like IRLI who are looking out for taxpayers’ best interests.”
IRLI’s concern for “taxpayers” has long been scrutinized. Most of the legislation it writes for small cities and towns results in protracted (and expensive) legal battles, all paid for with the taxes of working people. According to the Center for American Progress, as of January of 2011, the five highest-profile laws that IRLI had written collectively cost their respective communities over $8 million: Hazleton, Pennsylvania with $2.8 million; Riverside, New Jersey, with $82,000; Prince William County, Virginia, with $1.3 million initially and an estimated $700,000 per year following; Farmers Branch, Texas, with almost $4 million; and Fremont , Nebraska, which is still fighting its legal battle, with an estimated $1,000,000 per year.
IRLI’s not helping anyone but its own nativist lobby. The most likely intentions for this bogus challenge is to misdirect the voting public, distracting them from the assault on the Maryland DREAM Act taking place by the Tanton Network’s nativist lackeys in that state. While again attempting to build their vision on the backs of immigrants and working people, IRLI and the Tanton Network are just putting on another dog and pony show while they advance their exclusionary ideologies—and get rich while doing it.