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FAIR Hides Ties to Florida-Based Anti-Immigrant Group

Stephen Piggott • Oct 25, 2010

Janet Renner photographed with IRLI's Kris Kobach

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) responded to a blog post by The Florida Independent regarding its relationship to the anti-immigrant group Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN). In an effort to deflect speculation about its relationship to local groups that endorse candidates,  FAIR’s media director, Ira Mehlman, flatly told The Florida Independent, “There is no affiliation between FAIR and FLIMEN.”

FAIR has reason to be jumpy. The organization is a 501(c)3 and therefore shouldn’t be endorsing or helping state-level groups endorse or contribute to political campaigns. Unfortunately for FAIR, it has been working with FLIMEN on legislative issues for some time, and FLIMEN is now aggressively endorsing a Florida candidate for governor.

Two of the Florida group’s leaders, Janet Renner and David Caulkett, are listed as “FAIR state advisors” by the FLIMEN website.  FAIR spokesperson, Kristen Williamson, responded to a similar inquiry by the Washington Independent by stating, “We have worked with [Caulkett] before. We do have people called state advisers, but they are volunteers. It’s not a formal connection and they are not employees.”

This explanation might suffice, except that there are deeper connections between FLIMEN and FAIR that weren’t uncovered in the article.

The aforementioned Janet Renner, the president of FLIMEN, also founded Missourians Against Illegal Immigration in 2005. This group was once listed on FAIR’s website, but has since been removed. Renner is a former Missouri State Advisor for FAIR and was a featured immigration activist in FAIR’s 2008 newsletter. While working with Missourians Against Illegal Immigration, Renner co-sponsored a fundraiser event with the far right John Birch Society. Notably, Chris Simcox of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps attended. The fundraiser was for the town of Valley Park, Missouri whose residents were involved in a court battle over implementation of an anti-immigrant ordinance. The residents of Valley Park were defended by lawyers from the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) which is the legal arm of FAIR.

FAIR has also worked with FLIMEN on a number of local anti-immigrant projects and ordinances. In 2006, FAIR sent around an action alert urging members to attend a hearing to promote an anti-immigrant ordinance in Palm Bay, Florida. The alert listed FLIMEN’s David Caulkett as a contact. In May of this year, a presentation to the Lake Worth Community Relations Board by Brooke Bailey noted that FAIR and FLIMEN “also worked behind the scenes to squelch Lake Worth’s Resource Center and, farther north, Jupiter’s El Sol Center. Both centers are devoted to integrating migrant workers into the community by providing job opportunities, language and technology classes, and academic mentoring.”

It appears that Janet Renner moved from Missouri to Florida to take up a position at FLIMEN. Since she joined FLIMEN, it has worked closely with FAIR to push anti-immigrant legislation in Florida. In June of this year, FLIMEN wrote about its attempt to pass an E-verify measure in the 2010 Florida Legislative Session. The measure was written for FLIMEN by FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. The article states, “Importantly, this proposed bill was well written by IRLI so as to withstand judicial challenge.”

Later in the article, FLIMEN discussed how it continued to work with FAIR’s legal arm during the 2010 Florida Legislative Session, it stated, “Several weeks into the 2010 Session and unable to find a sponsor, FLIMEN with the legal expertise of IRLI analyzed two bills already sponsored and filed.”

At the end of the article, FLIMEN stated, “Thanks to FAIR, IRLI and NumbersUSA for their support.”

FAIR and FLIMEN continue to have close ties. Despite FAIR’s claims, the two organizations work together to push anti-immigrant legislation in Florida.

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