Anti-immigrant groups are working furiously to spin the outcome of Monday’s ruling on state immigration laws into a victory. The affected laws include Alabama’s HB 56 and Georgia’s HB 87 – racist laws that nativist groups like FAIR and its subsidiary, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, helped create.
An Atlanta federal appeals court ruled that key provisions of HBs 56 and 87, fashioned after Arizona’s racial profiling law SB 1070, undermine federal law and violate constitutional rights (see the full ruling here). While the ruling clearly spelled failure for Kris Kobach, the primary architect of the laws, and his allies at FAIR, Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA (collectively known as the Tanton Network), they also had to contend with the fallout of a public briefing on the constitutionality of state immigration laws just a few days prior
During Friday’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights briefing in Alabama, it was apparent that the controversy that has hampered these organizations for many years was taking its toll. Anti-immigrant groups turned out their best and brightest for the event and their pre-briefing touting indicated that they thought it was their time to shine.
They had reason to be optimistic.
Todd Gaziano, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal & Judicial Studies, is a Commissioner for the US Commission on Civil Rights. Graziano appears to be a staunch ally of Kobach’s, hosting a panel last month called “Ensuring Election Integrity,” on which Kobach was featured. And the Tanton Network of groups was given unprecedented representation on the agenda. Immigration Reform Law Institute attorney Kris Kobach (also Kansas’s Secretary of State), Center for Immigration Studies’s Mark Krikorian, FAIR president Dan Stein, and Chris Chmielenski of NumbersUSA were all slated to testify.
Afterwards, Chmielinski published an article hinting at just how severe of a debacle the briefing was for anti-immigrant groups, noting that almost all the press focused on the hostile reception anti-immigrant leaders got from the crowd. He specifically bemoaned the presence of civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Chmielinski lamented that SPLC was there for the “sole purpose of defaming and discrediting the speakers speaking on behalf of the laws.”
He concluded his gloomy recounting with the prediction that the briefing would be “rendered one big waste of time.”
Kobach attempted a more positive spin, as is dictated by his role with FAIR, telling Lou Dobbs after the hearing that the Alabama law has “been a real success story.” But that clearly wasn’t the opinion of the community members who attended.
Kobach was heckled by the crowd for his hateful legislative attacks, and the commissioners were publicly admonished for inviting controversial anti-immigrant leaders to testify. Predictably, Graziano was displeased with the demonstrations, but other commissioners signaled that it was an acceptable exercise in non-violent protest.
Try as he might, Kobach can’t deny that his unsavory affiliations are starting to catch up to him – steadily taking the polish off his wholesome public persona.
While anti-immigrant groups still have a strong foothold in legislative efforts to dehumanize immigrants, they appear to be falling further out of favor with the the media, U.S. courts, and most importantly the American people.