Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Anti-immigrant group speaks to the Woman’s National Democratic Club

Brian Schultz • Mar 24, 2011

It’s pretty easy to rely on labels. When faced with the staggering prospect of evaluating every movement issue by issue, idea by idea, it’s understandable that many of us appraise many organizations by the surface they exhibit to the public. People sometimes need a simple explanation, and we tend to expect honesty in such branding. Thus, it’s disgraceful when an organization exploits labels to attract unsuspecting persons to an ideology they never would have condoned.

If we merely analyzed the surface, it wouldn’t seem unusual that members of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) were invited to speak at the Woman’s National Democratic Club earlier this week. The latter describes itself as “offer[ing] news, history and information on women in the Democratic Party and a lecture series to members in the Washington area.”

It’s a typical lineup; why wouldn’t an affiliate of the Democratic Party mingle with “progressive” organizations? The event’s topic, “What’s Going on with Immigration Reform?” seemed benign enough to any viewer, and the ensuing description only provided ambivalent queries like “What’s with the 14th Amendment?”

These ambiguities leave one wondering, what does a self-proclaimed “progressive” have to say about immigration? What does progressive mean for PFIR?

One of the event’s speakers, PFIR executive director Leah Durant, has stated, “There are many progressives and liberals that are concerned about the unintended consequences that large scale immigration has on the environment, economy, and other issues[…]”  Moreover, PFIR’s platform aims at “curtailing large-scale immigration and ending the policies of chain-migration.”

In other words, the organization frames restrictionist arguments to suit left-swinging audiences—exactly what the event at WNDC did. And for some, this might not be a problem.

But this probably is: Leah Durant openly courts the support of white nationalists. PFIR itself falls within the constellation of organizations started and sponsored by white-nationalist John Tanton, and Durant worked as a legal analyst for perhaps the most renowned of these groups, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Durant has also been interviewed in and supported by the Social Contract Journal (also owned by Tanton), edited by notorious homophobe and Council of Conservative Citizens collaborator Wayne Lutton.

One could argue that someone might accept Durant’s definition of “progressive,” but it seems unusual that the WNDC would. More likely, this is a patent example of the far right infiltrating the American center and left by using liberal labels. The fact that PFIR could even imagine itself in these moderate forums is absurd, and its relentlessly conservative program ultimately belies its “progressive” marketing.

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