Anti-Immigrant State Group Member Sees Second Bid for State House Fail

Terry Gorman (right), RIILE’s Executive Director, pushing E-Verify at a demonstration outside the chamber of Rhode Island’s House of Representatives in March 2012.

Matthew Guerra, 33, was the Republican candidate in Rhode Island’s House District 46 until he was defeated by the Democratic candidate, Jeremiah O’Grady, for the second time in two years.

In a “Meet the Candidates” piece in The Valley Breeze, Guerra identified the following under his “Activities” sub-head:

“Secretary of Lincoln Town Republican Committee, member of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, Math Counts Foundation, Rhode Island Republican Party.”

Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement (RIILE) is listed as an official state contact group for the national organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the long-time flagship of the established anti-immigrant movement. FAIR was founded in 1979 by white nationalist John Tanton. Tanton has gone on to share group leadership with, found, and/or fund a raft of white nationalist, population control and faux-environmental, and nativist and anti-immigrant groups, all serving various missions and foci under that movement’s umbrella.

Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, Social Contract Press, Immigration Reform Law Institute, Progressives for Immigration Reform, Negative Population Growth, ProEnglish, and several others are some examples.

Vital to FAIR’s mission of controlling at least one side of the broader immigration debate in the United States is recruiting grassroots groups and their members, like RIILE and Matthew Guerra, who are willing to carry FAIR’s messaging wholesale to citizens on more micro state-down-to-community levels. Leaders of national groups often reside on the boards of such groups–as was the case with Roy Beck of NumbersUSA when he sat on the board of the Midwest Coalition for Immigration Reform–providing them with guidance, messaging, resources, and avenues to funding. For instance many such state groups have received general support or program grants from Tanton’s own foundation, U.S., Inc.

Such a network allows FAIR and its anti-immigrant comrades to maintain a ground level presence in those communities and, most importantly, state legislatures. Groups like RIILE often work diligently to pressure and to lobby state representatives to introduce legislation that FAIR pushes at the national level. One example is the E-Verify worker authorization program, which RIILE has backed persistently over recent years. Groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA have long fought to see E-Verify passed at the federal level.

In an election that saw a majority of victories for congressional politicians linked to the FAIR backed coalitions of the House Immigration Reform Caucus (federal-level) and State Legislators for Legal Immigration (state-level), Guerra’s defeat was important for a couple reasons. In Guerra, FAIR failed to gain an ally in Rhode Island’s state house, and similarly State Legislators for Legal Immigration lost an opportunity potentially to absorb such an ally.

At present neither coalitions have members serving the state of Rhode Island. Click here to see how anti-immigrant politicians across the country fared in last week’s election.