A project of the Center for Community Change

FIRM Spotlight: Students in WI force Rep. Ryan to distance himself from FAIR

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been forced to rewrite his own history in the past few days. Ryan recently granted an interview to FAIR (the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform) during their “Hold their Feet to the Fire” event here in Washington, DC last month.

For those of you who are regular readers, you are familiar with FAIR. For those of you who aren’t, the rundown is this: they are a designated hate group by the SPLC and are a part of the John Tanton network that has extensive ties to the White Supremacist movement. In short, they are the force working against our pro-immigrant movement.

Students working with Voces de la Frontera, a FIRM partner, in Racine, WI organized a rally against Rep. Ryan for his involvement with FAIR. From local newspaper the Journal:

A group of about 50 people marched outside of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s Downtown Racine office at 216 Sixth St. on Tuesday, angered by the Janesville Republican’s decision to grant an interview during an event sponsored by an immigration reform organization in Washington, D.C.

Apparently, the students made a big impact: that same day Rep. Ryan released a statement distancing himself from FAIR and his name has since been pulled from their website as a “participant” in last month’s “Hold their Feet to the Fire” event.

It is so important for lawmakers and the media to recognize groups like FAIR for what they really are: extremists. Many of these groups (and especially FAIR) can all be traced to one central figure, John Tanton.

“He’s a central player in the organization. He’s not some ancillary guy. He’s got this terrible legacy,” Beirich said of Tanton, who ran the organization for a few decades and now serves on its board. “Frankly he’s an extremist. He’s funded white supremacist groups. He’s hung out with white supremacists.”

Congratulations to the student activists in Wisconsin for their victory yesterday.

Racine Voces de la Frontera coordinator Maria Morales also sees this as a victory.

“FAIR is a thinly veiled hate group that too often gets into the mainstream media as a legitimate counterpoint of view. When Representatives like Ryan disassociate themselves from FAIR it helps to discredit them,” she explains. “Now we need Ryan to do more. Many families in Racine are suffering because of a broken immigration system. We need him to work with us towards comprehensive immigration reform.”

Can you feel the momentum building? I can.

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