Nativism Watch

Director Leah Durant leaves front group ‘Progressives’ for Immigration Reform

Imagine2050 Staff • May 11, 2016

The decidedly not-progressive Leah Durant is no longer executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR).

The anti-immigrant front group announced Durant had resigned in a brief press release on Friday, April 22.

News of Durant’s departure should not come as a surprise. As an organization, PFIR has been relatively inactive in recent months and Durant has made virtually no public media appearances on PFIR’s behalf in the last year. Instead, she has spent the better part of the last two years developing a private law practice specializing in vaccine law.

Durant became PFIR’s founding executive director in 2009. Prior to that, she was an attorney at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI)—the legal arm of flagship anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Other founding members of PFIR’s board of directors include Frank Morris and Vernon Briggs, who also served on the board of anti-immigrant groups like FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

Also See: The Immigration Reform Law Institute and the anti-immigrant origins of Texas v. United States

With these founders, it was clear from the start that PFIR was a thinly-veiled attempt to disguise the organized anti-immigrant movement’s extremist agenda with progressive and environmental labels. But by choosing Durant as the public face of the organization, PFIR revealed how disingenuous it really was.

Leah Durant (front row, 2nd from right) at Republican Women of Clifton meeting

Leah Durant (front row, 2nd from right) at Republican Women of Clifton meeting

As Imagine 2050 reported in 2013, Durant simultaneously led the self-described “progressive” PFIR and belonged to multiple conservative and right wing groups in Virginia. Durant even listed “conservative politics” as an interest for a time on LinkedIn and led a women’s coalition supporting E.W. Jackson, the unsuccessful far-right candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia.

Durant’s priorities appeared to have shifted away from PFIR in 2013 when she co-founded the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA) and worked to mobilize Black citizens against immigration reform legislation. BALA was strikingly similar to Choose Black America, a previous effort coordinated by FAIR to mobilize Black Americans. The composition of BALA’s leadership team, which included Durant and other former Choose Black America officials, made it clear that the new endeavor would be no less disingenuous than the previous one.

BALA fizzled out in 2013, under Durant’s leadership, after a summer rally in Washington, DC and a poorly attended event series.

Ever since, Durant has increasingly promoted her private law practice. But no matter how far she attempts to distance herself from the extremism of the organized anti-immigrant movement, she cannot inoculate herself from her own history of disingenuous advocacy.

Photo credit: Screenshot from YouTube

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