The Trump administration has chosen two immigration hard-liners with links to known hate groups for key agency posts, alarming immigrant rights advocates.
Jon Feere, a former analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), has been hired as an adviser to Thomas D. Homan, Acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Julie Kirchner, former executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has been hired as an adviser to Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, CNN reports.
Feere is an advocate of ending U.S. birthright citizenship, a strong critic of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and has been quoted in anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying outlets, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
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Kirchner worked at FAIR, a well-known anti-immigrant hate group, for almost 10 years before leaving to become an immigration adviser to the Trump campaign last year.
CIS and FAIR are think tanks based in Washington, D.C. that often pass as legitimate, mainstream commentators on immigration. They have been identified by the SPLC as anti-immigrant hate groups conceived by Tanton.
“These groups have spent 20 years looking for ways that they could hurt immigrants and now they’ve been given the keys to the kingdom,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington, to CNN.
The new hires are reflective of Trump’s campaign promise to crack down on immigration, including promises to build a border wall, punish sanctuary cities, and ban Muslims from entering the United States.
“Although on the surface they appear quite different—the first, the country’s best-known anti-immigrant lobbying group; the second, an ‘independent’ think tank … they are fruits of the same poisonous tree,” according to the SPLC.
“We take these designations very seriously, and CIS and FAIR are far-right fringe groups that regularly publish racist, xenophobic material and spread misinformation about immigrants and immigration,” said Heidi Beirich, director of Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which oversees the annual count of anti-immigrant groups.
The new hires follow controversial picks like Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and White House counselor who also has ties to FAIR and anti-choice groups, and Steve Bannon, the campaign CEO and now top adviser who previously ran Breitbart News, the white nationalist website.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, another immigration hard-liner, toured the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday and outlined a new get-tough approach to immigration prosecutions under Trump, the Associated Press reported.