Anthracite Unite launched a petition calling on Congressman Lou Barletta to resign from the National Advisory Board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group with eugenicist origins.
As this post goes public, the petition is about to cross the threshold of 1,000 signees. Media outlets including Penn Live, The Daily Item, The Citizen’s Voice, WKOK, The Scranton Times-Tribune, Fox 56, and Think Progess have covered the campaign, which happened to coincide with Barletta’s announcement that he will run for Senate in 2018.
The congressman responded to the petition by refusing to resign – in fact, declaring that he was “proud” to be involved with FAIR, as organization that he said “seeks to fix our nation’s broken immigration system to help improve our nation’s security, economy, workforce, health care and environment.”
FAIR is far more extreme than a run-of-the-mill immigration reform group, however. SPLC calls them “a group with one mission: to severely limit immigration into the United States.” “Although FAIR maintains a veneer of legitimacy that has allowed its principals to testify in Congress and lobby the federal government, this veneer hides much ugliness.”
FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, for example, once wrote, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”
More recently, its current president Dan Stein, told Tucker Carlson, “Immigrants don’t come here all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing… Many of them hate America, hate everything that the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans.”
FAIR usually hits back on the “nativist extremist” label by trying to discredit the SPLC. In responding to the petition, a FAIR spokesperson called the SPLC “unsavory” and a “political organization with no oversight.” “Who appointed them as guardian of our national discourse?”
The answer, of course, is no one did; but what their rhetorical question overlooks is that the SPLC has made it their mission to stop hate groups and they have the record to back it up. It is because of them, for example, that the United Klans of America, one of the largest Ku Klux Klan organizations, had to turn over their headquarters and were rightfully convicted of criminal charges. The intelligence the SPLC gathers on domestic terrorism has also done a tremendous amount to keep our communities safe.
Ultimately, however, this is not about the SPLC or the FAIR. This is about Lou Barletta’s continued willingness to associate with extremists.
Barletta rose to prominence after passing the Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA) in Hazleton, even though that ordinance did nothing to address the particular local problems his city faced. He claimed people without documentation were gobbling up resources and committing crime, but had no evidence to support either of these claims. In fact, study after study shows that immigrants commit less crime than their native-born counterparts do and that immigration boosts local economies.
It turns out that Joseph Turner of the California-based Save Our State – another “nativist extremist” organization – authored the IIRA as part of an effort to, in his words, “save California from turning into a “Third World cesspool” of illegal immigrants.”
This sentiment was on display again after recent events in Charlottesville, when, in his initial statement, Barletta failed to denounce the blatant bigotry on display there. “I strongly condemn the violence in Charlottesville. My prayers are with the victims, their families, and the police and first responders who are working to keep the members of their community safe.”
Even when pressure from local activists prompted him to submit a revised statement, he still problematically equated those who are actively resisting Nazism with Nazis themselves.
Barletta has been winning re-election easily in the heavily gerrymandered 11th Congressional District. The Senate, however, is a statewide office. When he stands with an extremist group like FAIR, in effect he is standing against the six percent of Pennsylvanians who are foreign-born and the nearly one-million Commonwealth residents who identify as Hispanic or Latino. When he is slow to denounce open hatred targeting Jews, Blacks, and LGBT folks, he is likewise demonstrating an unwillingness to protect Pennsylvania’s 291,000 Jews, 1.5 million African-Americans, and at least 350,000 people who identify as LGBT.
With Lou Barletta pursuing even more power, its time he’s held accountable for his demagoguery.
Click here to sign the petition.