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Eye on the Right: State Legislators for Legal Immigration and Immigration Law Reform Institute

The FAIR-backed group State Legislators for Legal Immigration was formed by Pennsylvania Rep. Darryl Metcalfe in 2007 with members in 25 states.  Modeled on the conservative Congressional House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC), SLLI finished the 2008 election almost exactly where it was at the end of the 2006 election — as a major obstruction to progressive immigration reform.

The number of highly nativist incumbents in state races decreased in the 2008 election. Entering the election, the FAIR front group State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI) had 61 legislators from 33 different states. Post-election, 48 SLLI members remain in office (39 won re-election, nine had terms that weren’t up, nine lost, and nine did not seek re-election). Even conservatives are seeking more rational and strategic approaches, as a three-fourths majority of the Virginia GOP recently convened and decided to depose their current state chair, Del. Jeff Frederick, who represents Prince William County and is a proud member of State Legislators for Legal Immigration.

Based out of the same floor and same office building as the Immigration Law Reform Institute (ILRI), FAIR’s legal policy arm in DC, legislative members of SLLI commit to pushing for regressive immigration policies that are replicated in multiple states. Amongst the issues they push are increased local law enforcement and cooperation with federal immigration authorities, mandatory E-verify provisions for public and private employers, restricting or repealing in-state tuition for undocumented students, English-only acts, and drivers’ license restrictions. All of these bills and lawsuits are designed to create unnecessary barriers between immigrants and the communities in which they live.

IRLI describes itself as “a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to controlling illegal immigration and reducing legal immigration to levels consistent with the national interest of the United States.” In other words, FAIR’s ILRI works not just against undocumented immigration but also against most instances of legal immigration, despite SLLI's claims to support legal immigration.

In addition to founding Rep. Darryl Metcalfe of Pennsylavania, here are some other legislators who are charter members of SLLI:

Rep. Randy Terrill (OK);, Sen. Tom Adelson (OK), Sen. Chip Rogers (GA), Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (Virginia), Rep. Russell Pearce (AZ), Rep. Eric Koch (IN), Rep. Donna Rowland (TN), Sen. David Schultheis (CO), Rep. Kent Lambert (CO), Delegate Kelli Soboyna (WV), Rep. Leo Berman (TX), Sen. Tony Fulton (NE), REp. Rick Green (AR) and , Rep. Kim Thatcher (OR). Furthermore, Kansas Republican Party Chairman and failed congressional candidate Kris Kobach has served as IRLI’s attorney and spearheaded a series of unsuccessful lawsuits including a failed challenge to Kansas' in-state tuition bill.  The Hazelton, Pennsylvania ordinances designed to "drive immigrants out", crafted by Kobach and fellow IRLI attorney Michael Hethmon, was struck down as being unconstitutional last year by a federal judge who also charged the city for all legal fees. "Everything he does has been a failure," Mira Mdivani, a Kansas immigration lawyer, told The Pitch in January 2007.

Resources:
Southern Poverty Law Center: The Nativists: Kris Kobach
Center for International Policy: Planning the War on Immigrants