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Dueling rhetoric

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Let me get this straight - Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and allied groups get nearly three years of unfettered access to Fox, MSNBC and CNN to demagogue views on immigration; they get the enthusiastic endorsement of network talk-show hosts such as Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, who echo their rhetoric, champion their issues and deride anyone who raises a voice in opposition as supporters of "open borders" or "pro-illegal immigration"; they disparage our motives when we appear on their programs or issue a statement. Yet he's calling us bullies and crying foul because we dare to push back? ("Attempts at censorship," Op-Ed, Tuesday.)

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) did not label FAIR a hate group; the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) did, based on documented characteristics of what defines a "hate group." We did not label the rhetoric that FAIR and the cable networks have used to demonize immigrants as "code words of hate"; the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) did. Neither of those groups has a dog in the fight over immigration. NCLR is ready, willing and able to have a debate on immigration, but our primary concern for the moment is not about public policy.

As the largest national Hispanic civil rights group in the United States, NCLR is alarmed over the spike in hate crimes against Latinos, as documented by the FBI. We are alarmed at the rise of hate groups and white supremacists targeting Latinos, as documented by the SPLC. We also are alarmed at the amazing passivity and lack of judgment with which the cable news media treat many of the anti-immigration groups, including FAIR, whose affiliations and records should be questioned and disclosed.

FAIR is the brainchild of John Tanton, as are many of the other major advocates banging the anti-immigrant drum, including U.S. Inc., ProEnglish, the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, and Social Contract Press. Mr. Tanton and his "children" have long ties to white supremacists, eugenics and hate, and yet they continually get a pass on the cable network news.

Appealing to the networks and the better angels of their nature is a logical first step for us to take. There are others, to be sure, but we feel it is appropriate to start here.

JANET MURGUIA

President and CEO

National Council of La Raza

Washington

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