ABA Expands Its Open-Borders Agenda, Embraces SPLC

By Jon Feere and Jon Feere on August 16, 2012

The American Bar Association (ABA) recently held its annual meeting in Chicago and took the opportunity to embrace a more open-borders position than ever before. The ABA angered its membership in 2010 by filing an amicus brief against Arizona's S.B. 1070. A year later, the ABA waded into the birthright citizenship debate and passed a resolution designed to silence all discussion about the appropriate scope of the Citizenship Clause.

The new president-elect of the ABA, New York City lawyer James R. Silkenat, seems to want to take the ABA a step further, apparently putting U.S. sovereignty behind the interests of illegal aliens when he said this at the annual meeting:

On immigration, is the sanctity of our borders so important that it leaves no room for immigrants to realize their dreams and participate in, and enrich our society?

While the comment is muddled — likely the result of having been uttered by a man without a background in immigration policy — it is nevertheless quite troubling that the incoming ABA president considers the current lax enforcement of our borders to be too burdensome and the annual naturalization of over a million people to be insufficient. The United States now has a record 40 million immigrants, a 28 percent increase over the total in 2000. There is plenty of opportunity for foreigners to participate in (and ultimately join) our society, yet the ABA seems bent on limiting enforcement of immigration law.

The ABA also adopted a resolution on alien detention practices. To be sure, the detention system should be humane and efficient and aliens should be returned home at the earliest opportunity. Of course, it is also important to remember that detained aliens often hold the keys to the detention facility and can return home at any time; prolonged detention is almost always the result of the alien contesting his removal with the help of an immigration attorney.

Groups like the ABA are also to blame for increased detention. If one wants less detention, one should support less immigration, both legal and illegal. Secure borders, a working entry-exit system, a commitment to workplace enforcement, and an end to illegal-immigration-inducing policies would go far in eliminating the need for more detention centers. But the ABA and other open-borders groups are their own worst enemies: They are constantly opposing measures that would deter illegal immigration and the natural result is a greater need for deportation and detention.

The lengthy detention recommendations are aimed at maximizing costs and minimizing security. The ABA seeks increased medical screening despite the fact that taxpayers spend over $100 million annually on detainee health care, dental care, three square meals a day "at least two of which should be hot meals", laundry machines, free civilian clothing if needed (which must be "gender-appropriate, well-fitting … with some variety (i.e., not uniforms) and suited to the season"), "communal" activity rooms and "quiet" reading rooms, an outdoor recreation space "with grass" as well as "indoor recreation space for use in the event of inclement weather", etc. The ABA also attempts to regulate basic detention center controls like head counts and visitation (e.g. it opposes detention officers from screening visitors' immigration status or inquiring about a Social Security number, but supports use of the unverifiable and unreliable matricula consular). And that is only a small sample of the demands.

The ABA annual conference also included an award ceremony featuring the Southern Poverty Law Center's Morris Dees, who received what the outgoing ABA president Bill Robinson III described as its "highest honor" — an ABA medal. According to Mr. Robinson:

Presentation of the ABA Medal today to Morris Seligman Dees, Jr., represents our profound admiration for his personal courage and incomparable leadership as one of the greatest civil rights lawyers of our time. We are indeed indebted to Mr. Dees … as an exemplar of what our profession means to our country for his dedicated service, and we are extremely pleased and privileged today to present him the ABA Medal.

In presenting the medal, the ABA president cited a 1987 case in which Dees won a judgment against the Ku Klux Klan that effectively bankrupted the group after it was found liable for the lynching of a young man named Michael Donald. On its own, the SPLC's efforts appear admirable. But the ABA president failed to mention that the SPLC profiteered off the young man's death, as explained by journalist Ken Silverstein, the author of "The Church of Morris Dees: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Profits from Intolerance":

According to a groundbreaking series of newspaper stories in the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC, meanwhile, made $9 million from fund-raising solicitations featuring the case, including one containing a photo of Michael Donald's corpse.

According to Silverstein, the SPLC rakes in millions but provides very little back to the civil rights cause:

Last time I checked, the SPLC had more than $150 million in its treasury, more than the GNP of some of the world's smaller countries, yet it did very little work to advance civil rights or fight poverty. … Dees made a lot of money prior to founding the SPLC so he didn't just get rich off of his "civil rights" work. But does a man this wealthy really need a compensation package worth — according to his group's latest tax filing — $350,000?

Today the SPLC has net assets reaching just under $240 million. It's not just Mr. Silverstein who has noticed the questionable practices of SPLC. At least three organizations that monitor charities nationwide have criticized the SPLC for misleading donors and spending little on its programs. According to a groundbreaking report by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jerry Kammer, the SPLC "fabricates and distorts evidence to delegitimize one side of the immigration debate" and is run by a man (Dees) who "shows a record of cynical exploitation of the idealism and generosity of people around the country." The report is a must-read and raises too many issues to list here.

At the ABA award ceremony, Dees gave a moving performance complete with a quivering lip and references to gospel, all delivered with a delicate, southern accent. The crowd was stirred to a standing ovation. Had members of the audience done their research they might not have been so easily hypnotized and would have seen exactly why a former associate of Dees referred to him as "the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement".

During his acceptance speech, Dees couldn't help himself from highlighting the wealth of his "poverty law" center:

I didn't get this thing by myself. You're giving this award to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the 43 lawyers that work there now, and the several hundred who have come and gone over the years.

And when I got a call from Bill [Robinson III, president of the ABA], I started thinking. You know, I gotta send a thank you note to people that made all this possible. So I made a list and I came up with 157 names of lawyers in this country — and some of you are sitting here who got this letter — thanking you for your pro-bono help on cases we've done around the country. And I can assure you that that work has been appreciated and has added enormous inspiration and money and talent to the fight that we've had to endure. And also I want to thank the 350,000 contributors to the Southern Poverty Law Center and all over this United States — and many of you here, too. Some of you come up to me already and mentioned that. And I appreciate that because without your help we couldn't fund the budget we have today, with the 200 employees that we have at the Southern Poverty Law Center. But the people I want to thank the most, are the people who have made my life richer over these last 52 years as a trial lawyer. And those are the judges and the juries and the clients that we represented. (emphasis added)

Mr. Dees has become quite wealthy through his work in charity. And the ABA speech gave him an opportunity to shamelessly promote the SPLC and seek more donations using the horrific shooting deaths of six Sikhs in Wisconsin, less than 48 hours after the attack. After mentioning a large verdict won by the SPLC in the KKK case, Dees quickly tied it to the Sikh shooting, saying:

And as I think today about those six Sikhs that were killed and others wounded, I think about the continued hate and racism and injustice and anger in this country, and I'm glad that our Intelligence Project was tracking the very man that did this — and many times we've been able to inform law enforcement — I give thanks to a group like this for your commitment to the rule of law. And I know that you will not be satisfied, in the words of the Prophet Amos, words that Dr. Martin Luther King used in Washington, D.C., that you will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. Thank you so much.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, predicted that the SPLC would use the shooting for their own purposes (like promoting their questionable Intelligence Project), and unfortunately he was correct. As Krikorian explained:

And if all [the SPLC] did was focus on real threats to public order, and keep an eye on genuine enemies of the Constitution as a force-multiplier for law enforcement, I wouldn't begrudge them their money. But that's not what they do. The SPLC has two main objectives: promoting a hard-left political agenda and making huge piles of money while doing so (many liberals argue the second objective is the only real one). Either reason is sufficient to explain its scurrilous efforts to smear the Family Research Council and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (not to mention veterans and tea-party activists) as "hate groups" identical to those the racist, homicidal freak in Wisconsin associated with.

But they end up doing the opposite. The SPLC's hate-driven (or money-driven) lies are so outlandish that no one outside the New York Times newsroom believes them even when they identify real dangerous criminals. By crying "wolf" on a regular basis, the SPLC makes it less likely that even accurate information they provide will be taken seriously. I was encouraged to hear from a colleague in the know that law enforcement officers find the Anti-Defamation League's intel on possible violent extremist groups to be more believable and useful than the dren from the SPLC.

It is unfortunate that the American Bar Association has become another open-borders, high-immigration, pro-amnesty, SPLC-supporting activist group. It's not surprising that the organization is struggling to collect membership dues.