Exclusive Interview with Bob Dane of FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform)
Published By: All Right Magazine on March 31, 2009
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: The stated goal of the Federation for American Immigration Reform is to reduce immigration to around 300,000 per year. As it stands, the number is about 1,000,000. What’s the difference?
FAIR: The difference is a higher quality of life for all Americans. Stopping illegal immigration and reducing legal immigration is critical to every aspect of our well being. We need a “cooling off” period. The annual level of admissions has been running higher for longer than ever before in our history. It’s out of control because it’s fueled by the greed for cheap labor by big business, instant votes for the political parties, and the desire to increase membership and political clout by the ethno-centric groups. The demands of these groups seem to dictate our immigration policy – a policy that is really intended to serve the broad national interest, not the needs of special interests.
The state of our current immigration policy doesn’t reflect our past American heritage, and it’s not in our current or future best interests. From 1925-1965 we had what is often called the Golden Age of Immigration. The numbers were controlled and sustainable, about 178,000 a year. At no time in history were immigrants more welcomed, assimilated as quickly, or done so well. But from 1965 to 1989 the numbers skyrocketed to about 567,000 annually. And then from 1990 on, we are seeing more than 1 million arriving every year. The growth is so large that California has to build a school every day just to keep up with new immigrants!
We simply do not have the space, the resources or the capacity to absorb them all. We are oversupplying our markets with cheap labor, burdening our schools, hospitals, jails, and testing the limits of our natural resources and energy supplies.
Yes, we are a nation of immigrants, but we’re principally a nation of laws and sociologically a nation of citizens. We can still have immigration but just not at the huge level we have now. Sustainability is the key. And we already have the most generous immigration policy of all major countries and have nothing to apologize for.
It all comes to this. There is more immigration demand in the world than the U.S. can possibly satisfy. Right now there are 6.6 billion people on planet earth and that number grows by 78 million every year and over 50% live on less than $2 per day. As the world’s population continues to explode, people will want to continue going where the conditions are best, and they’ll want to come to the U.S. That makes sense for them, but not for us. We are no longer the emerging industrial nation with wide open spaces for development and growth we used to be.
Immigration policy is in effect, population policy. It speaks directly to the issue of “carrying capacity.” Exactly how many more people do we want to squeeze into what is becoming a sardine can of a country? Based on our present trends of one million legal entries and ½ million illegal alien entries each year…we really have perpetual growth in a finite place and that cannot realistically continue. Our immigration policy needs to reflect our needs and the realities of the present day.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: It seems that immigration is a topic that heats up and cools down with the seasons. Why do you suppose that people seem to forget about it at times when the debate is so passionate at others?
FAIR: During the past year, it’s certainly understandable that people have been consumed with the election and with the economy. Beyond that, there are probably several reasons immigration ebbs and flows in the public arena and why there are long periods where the issue is seemingly dormant.
First is that most Americans are busy managing their jobs and families and don’t really have the luxury of regularly following the complexities of public policy. Frankly the opposition has so many stealth tactics, it makes it nearly impossible for the average person to monitor even when they want to. But it’s encouraging that given this short attention-span, high-demand and busy lifestyle world we live in, that when immigration
is front and center, that Americans respond rapidly, loudly, and powerfully. It demonstrates how important the issue is across the country and in folk’s backyards.
Certain events ignite this outrage – mass amnesty, in-state tuition bills and high profile crimes by illegal aliens which could have been prevented by the elimination of sanctuary policies that aid and abet illegal behavior and encourage more.
Second is that those who want something are usually more motivated and consistent in their efforts than those who have something they want to keep. This advantage is exploited by special interest groups who want power, amnesty, and more foreign guest workers and have institutional forces in place relentlessly pushing their agenda while “our guard is down.”
Third is, we assume the other guy is doing something about it. Well guess what? The other guy is big business and they are
paid to do something about it and they have. They have brought in millions and millions of immigrants legally and allowed millions and millions of illegal aliens to break in to do the jobs Americans used to do. While most of us are managing our lives, the special interests and big business are pushing their agenda, padding their pockets with cheap labor, and sticking us with the bill.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Recently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke at an event and suggested that the enforcement of current immigration law was “un-American” and suggested that illegal immigrants were true patriots. How can such sentiments be countered, especially in light of their source?
FAIR: These are the type of statements that infuriate Americans and which sometimes puts the issue back on the front burner. What we’re seeing is the political rhetoric and groundwork being laid right now for a massive amnesty, and efforts to reduce enforcement in three areas in particular – worksite enforcement, the 287g program and E-Verify. A perfect example is the recent ICE raid in Bellingham, WA after which DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said she had “grave concerns” and promised to “get to the bottom of it.” The bottom of what – law enforcement officers doing their jobs? And then GAO came out with a report questioning ICE on its 287G program because it’s allegedly not being used properly. And too, the DOJ has launched an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona following requests by congressional Democrats and allegations by liberal activists that the department has violated the civil rights of illegal aliens. It’s interesting that a poll just came out and showed 68% of Arizona voters support the sheriff.
The administration is deliberately stepping down enforcement as they basically suggest that immigration enforcement needs to just go after convicted violent criminal aliens and terrorists. That’s fine – those folks need to be identified and removed – but if those are the only people we target with enforcement then we’re still left with the vast majority of the illegal alien population and that of course is an amnesty in and of itself. If the only illegal aliens we ever go after are only those with felonies, then we send the message that it’s OK to come here, no one will bother you as long as you don’t commit a crime and or get caught.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just toured Mexico, touting a hefty aid package to buy helicopters for the Mexican authorities. The focus was on the drug trade, but do you think that it could possibly help stem human trafficking?
FAIR: Maybe, but the thing that will really stem human trafficking and the general flow of illegal immigration is a comprehensive approach of more sticks and less carrots, in particular drying up the jobs magnet which is the reason so many come and so many stay. We can’t have a sign up at the border that says “keep out” and “help wanted” at the same time. We have to have serious worksite enforcement, including a permanent reauthorization of E-Verify, and the penalties have to be big enough to offset the savings employers get from hiring cheap labor. It’s got to hurt. Since 1986 it’s been against the law to hire illegal aliens. Nothing has changed. If someone is illegal – they don’t work and you don’t hire ‘em. It’ll turn off the magnet attracting so many illegal aliens and will reintroduce a sense of fair play to employers who have been playing by the rules. Oh, did I mention it will increase wages for U.S. workers?
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: The latest twist in the border saga is the new emphasis on export of American guns to Mexico. Could stopping the flow of arms be a part of the solution to make Mexico more livable for its citizens?
FAIR: We often hear that Mexico is sending us people and drugs and we’re sending them cash and guns. There is some uncertainty however as to the extent of the gun flow from the U.S. and we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking Mexico needs to be protected from us. But yes, whatever gun flow is occurring needs to be stopped.
The drug cartel problem has been neglected by Mexico for a long time and no single thing will make it go away overnight. The demise of the Columbia cartels, the intensification of Mexico’s role, the longstanding corruption in Mexico, and the recent crackdown by Calderon are the primary causes for the current violence. Things will probably get worse before they get better.
But the blame game is unproductive. We need a shared effort to a mutual problem.
Both interior enforcement and border security are critical priorities, and both should be fully funded. We can’t afford to make this an either-or proposition.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Last year’s comprehensive immigration bill fell short by the smallest of margins. Was it the answer? What were its pros and cons from FAIR’s perspective?
FAIR:First, there were no pro’s. That was an amnesty plan pure and simple, sugar-coated with little bits of enforcement to make it seem more appealing. But Americans saw it for what it was and shut it down in short order. They knew that any immigration bill promising more enforcement by bargaining for amnesty is one to be avoided. And they knew the fundamental problems with amnesty – it rewards illegal behavior, it encourages more, and it’s unfair to those who come here legally.
Granting amnesty now for 12 million illegal aliens would redefine our entire American immigration policy for the world from this point forward. If we ignore the costly realities imposed by illegal immigration, if we dismiss the public mandate for true immigration reform and instead take the politically expedient route of amnesty we announce to the entire planet that the United States has no standards, no enforcement, no penalties and no worries for any and all wanting to come here. Amnesty must not become the new de facto American immigration policy.
That said, we’re seeing enormous pressure being put on the Obama administration to take another shot at it, and the groundwork for it is being laid. The administration’s push for amnesty or a “path to citizenship” is having a corrosive effect on basic respect for law and the credibility of the immigration system. What this president and congress
should be doing is stepping back and asking, “What’s the purpose of immigration, how crowded do we want to be, and how can we better manage this system to answer the interests of the American people at large, not solely the interests of major corporations and law breakers?”
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: The American people seem to be fairly united against massive immigration numbers, yet both Democrats and Republicans seem uninterested in taking anything more than half-measures. Why is that?
FAIR: No question, both parties are responsible for the policy of chaos we now have. Many Republicans have pandered to business interests to satisfy their never ending search for large pools of cheap labor, and both parties – especially the new far left of the Democrats now in power – have attempted to implement immigration policies to appease the Hispanic majority-minority in order to win votes.
But immigration is not, and should not be a partisan issue. Former President Bill Clinton said, “We cannot afford to lose control of our own borders and take on new financial responsibilities at a time when we are not adequately providing for the jobs, health care and education of our own people.” And it’s not a white versus brown issue, it’s not a conservative or liberal issue, and not a left versus right issue….it is a right and wrong issue.
Interestingly, the Republicans have a problem with Latino voters for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the immigration
issue. Latinos are generally poorer than the rest of the population and tend to rely more heavily on government assistance programs. So, like most rational people, Latinos vote their pocketbooks and, given their economic conditions, they will always get a better deal from the Democrats.
The GOP has not lost Latino voters over the past several election cycles, rather newer and poorer Latino voters have joined the electorate and are overwhelmingly voting for Democrats for economic reasons. So, the GOP’s share of the Latino vote has been diluted largely due
to immigration, not the immigration issue. The GOP will do well to keep this in mind.
But the good news is just what you mentioned – the majority of Americans are fairly united against massive immigration increases. That includes both Republicans and many moderate Democrats concerned about jobs and wages. Remember, the most important office is that of the private citizen. Woodrow Wilson said statesman have to bend to the collective will of the peoples or be broken. We always have that opportunity to break them at the ballot box if necessary.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Proponents of an open-border policy might say that the American economy, even with the recent downturn, needs the workers because of the nature of the services they perform. What would be the economic impact of a major reduction in immigration?
FAIR: Groups like America’s Voice, Center for American Progress, MALDEF, LaRaza, and scores of others have recently shifted their arguments for amnesty to conveniently fit the current economic turmoil and are now claiming that providing a “path to citizenship” for 12 million illegal aliens will actually improve the economy and increase wages. It’s a ridiculous argument. Simply converting millions of illegal aliens to legal status doesn’t change the fact that they are under-educated, unskilled and heavily government dependent. They will continue to take jobs, corrode wages and will continue to cost more than they contribute. How is that improving the economy? On the other hand, reducing immigration – both illegal and legal – will tighten the labor supply and cause wages and working conditions to rise at a time when Americans need that the most.
It’s pretty hard to find any evidence of a shortage of workers. The current unemployment rate is at 8.1% and getting worse. There are over 12 million American workers who don’t have jobs. Then you’ve got millions more who are involuntarily working part-time or have grown so discouraged they’ve just stopped looking for work altogether. Yet, in the meantime, according to the latest estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, an estimated 7.7 million jobs are held by illegal immigrants.
Anything this Administration does on immigration should be evaluated for its effect on the growing number of American workers out of work. In a way we’ve got to make sure that the next massive bailout is not to illegal aliens. Morally and financially, an illegal alien amnesty would really be the equivalent of another massive bailout. People who violate our immigrations laws would be eligible for a “restructuring” of their status. The companies that have been illicitly profiting from them would get to keep their workers and have even easier access to more cheap labor. In the meantime, you and I – the American Public would be forced to pay the costs of education, healthcare and other benefits because these folks – even though they get legalized – would still be heavily government dependent.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: In today’s hypersensitive culture, have there been charges of racism leveled against FAIR? What has the response been?
FAIR: After having failed to convince the American public of the merits of a mass amnesty for 12 million illegal aliens in the 2007 McCain-Kennedy Senate bill, the open-borders groups changed their strategy and now depend heavily on intimidation and smear tactics against organizations that represent an opposing point of view.
The term “racist” is being thrown at anyone, or any group, that is opposed to illegal immigration and is used as an emotionally-charged weapon to counter logic. It is a crude, transparent tactic designed to simply stop the debate and they use it when they’ve got nothing factual or sensible to argue. It’s really a last ditch effort and is usually the beginning of the end of the debate for the side that uses it.
FAIR promotes a mainstream concept, shared by tens of millions of Americans, that immigration policy must first serve national interests, not elites, not special interests, and not big business needing cheap labor. We have a 30 year reputation of credibility with the national news media including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and even National Public Radio – news organizations that can smell racism a mile away. FAIR has longstanding relationships with prominent members of Congress, is called upon more than any other immigration group to testify before local, state, and federal legislative bodies, has a membership of 250,000 people of every conceivable race, creed, color and political orientation.
We’re an immigration policy advocacy organization and we focus on immigration policy, not immigrants per se. Obviously in the course of discussing immigration policy you can’t avoid talking about immigrants but we are no more anti-immigrant than someone who is on a diet is anti-food. It’s about limitations and regulating the intake to a sensible level. Moreover, FAIR has a longstanding abiding policy of never advocating policies that discriminate for or against anyone based on race, creed, color, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Equal under the law is the law of FAIR.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Finally, how can people find out more about and contribute to FAIR?
FAIR: Thanks for asking! Our website is FAIRUS.org. Go to it, get informed, and get involved along with hundreds of thousands of other FAIR members. We’re making a huge difference but need your support.