2004 Annual Report

25 Years

When FAIR first opened its doors for business in 1979, the thought of an organization devoted to educating the American public about the consequences of U.S. immigration policy generally evoked puzzled looks. To most people, immigration was a matter of family lore, not a vital issue of public policy.

In 2004, the year FAIR marked its 25th anniversary, immigration had moved to the center of American political consciousness. At the third presidential debate, held in Tucson, Arizona, moderator Bob Schieffer prefaced a question to President Bush and Senator Kerry with this statement: "I got more email this week on this question than any other question. And it is about immigration."

Schieffer's observation reveals just how far the issue and the work of our organization have come in the past quarter century. From obscurity to the number one issue on the minds of voters, immigration has become one of the defining political debates of our time. It also spoke volumes about the impact that FAIR has made over the past 25 years. As Schieffer became aware that a question about immigration policy needed to be a part of the 2004 presidential debate he, like almost every other reporter and news organization, turned to FAIR to provide information and context as he tried to translate the concerns of so many voters into a question to the men vying to lead the nation.

The 2004 campaign also revealed how far we still need to go in order to bring about true immigration reform. The five minutes or so the two major party candidates spent responding to Schieffer's question was just about the entire extent of discussion of immigration policy in the 2004 campaign. Moreover, neither Bush nor Kerry espoused a position that was anywhere close to where the vast majority of Americans stand on immigration.

While many political leaders still avoid discussion of immigration policy, many in the media and academia have shown no such reluctance. Increasingly, the research, data and arguments that have been developed and disseminated by FAIR over the past 25 years have become part of the mainstream discussion of immigration policy in the U.S.

Discussions of immigration policy are a staple of talk radio, a communications medium that has evolved in its role as the sounding board of American public opinion. Even the elite media cover immigration with regularity and thoroughness that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. And, of course, the proliferation of new web-based media have put the power of mass communications in the hands of ordinary citizens, becoming an invaluable tool for like-minded people to share information, organize, plan strategies, and effect change.

Twenty-five years of planning, research, education, network development, grassroots organizing, and working with government officials at all levels, has put FAIR front and center in what has emerged as one of the defining political issues of the early 21st century. Building on that sound foundation, FAIR is poised to play a prominent role in shaping the changes in U.S. immigration policy that seem certain to occur in the coming years.

The complete 2004 annual report is available in pdf format.