Robert Law, a senior policy adviser to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), previously worked as a lobbying director for the anti-immigrant organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). While at FAIR, Law denigrated Dreamers, argued that the United States should end birthright citizenship, and recommended that the government reduce the number of refugees and immigrants coming into the country.
Law quietly joined the agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in October after serving as FAIR’s director of government relations, according to his LinkedIn profile. Aside from his networking page, Law’s appointment does not appear to have been publicly announced. His name appears in ProPublica's Trump Town database of admistration appointees.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated FAIR as a hate group, writing: “One of the group’s main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans.” FAIR was founded by John Tanton, who, the civil rights group wrote, “has white nationalist beliefs and has written that to maintain American culture, ‘a European-American majority’ is required.” Tanton remains on the group’s board of advisors. The Anti-Defamation League has also criticized FAIR, describing it as “an extreme anti-immigrant group.”
FAIR’s staff appears regularly in media outlets despite its hate group designation. Other members of the Trump administration have connections to the group. For example, former FAIR executive director Julie Kirchner is the ombudsman for USCIS after previously working as an adviser for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at DHS.
In an email to Media Matters, a FAIR spokesperson criticized SPLC and categorically rejected the hate group designation, writing, in part, “There is an ongoing effort by organizations with opposing views on immigration to try to discredit groups like FAIR that seek enforcement of immigration laws and overall limits on U.S. immigration.”
In a 2016 newsletter, FAIR stated that Law headed its “three-person Federal Government Relations department” and that his “passion for the immigration issue began a decade ago when he learned that Bank of America worked to help illegal immigrants get mortgages. Outraged, he marched down to the local branch and closed his account.”
USCIS is an agency that, according to its mission statement, “administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.” The agency recently changed its mission statement to remove a passage noting that the United States is “a nation of immigrants.” USCIS did not respond to requests for comment from Media Matters about Law.
Law co-authored FAIR’s November 2016 “Immigration Priorities for the 2017 Presidential Transition” report, which provided a blueprint of the nativist policies the group pushes. The report began by blaming “Illegal immigration and unchecked legal immigration” for much of the problems in the country:
Illegal immigration and unchecked legal immigration are detrimental to the quality of life in the United States. The American family is increasingly bearing the costs of urban sprawl, environmental degradation, traffic congestion, increased crime, overburdened health care, overwhelmed public schools and debt-ridden state and municipal governments—all results of uncontrolled immigration. The fiscal costs of immigration, legal and illegal, have always been substantial, but with the recent economic downturn, these costs have become even more burdensome. The social, cultural and political costs are being felt more acutely as we receive immigrants in numbers too large to be successfully incorporated into our way of life and assimilated into our communities.
The report recommended that the United States stop birthright citizenship, “end free health care for illegal aliens,” revoke the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, “reduce the size of the refugee cohort admitted to the U.S. each year,” and “limit overall immigration,” among other proposals.
Law frequently served up anti-immigrant rhetoric in the media during his time at FAIR as a opinion contributor for several months to The Hill. He criticized sanctuary cities; attacked so-called “chain migration”; and praised President Donald Trump for his efforts “to reverse the damage done by his predecessor and restore the rule of law” regarding immigration. Those columns also frequently used the anti-immigrant slur “illegal alien” to demean undocumented immigrants.
Law has also been a harsh critic of DACA, claiming that the program’s creation was “Obama’s decision to unilaterally grant amnesty to a portion of the illegal alien population” and that it was “unconstitutional.”
He also criticized politicians for employing the “brilliant marketing campaign painting a picture of Dreamers as a sympathetic group” and complained about Dreamers being marketed as “American in every way except on paper”:
For decades, politicians such as Pelosi, Schumer, and authors of the current DREAM Act, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have orchestrated a brilliant marketing campaign painting a picture of Dreamers as a sympathetic group. You are undoubtedly familiar with the deceptive phrases they use ad nauseum: “brought here through no fault of their own;” “American in every way except on paper;” and “we can’t deport these children.” (The average beneficiary of DACA today is 25-years-old).
What they are demanding, in essence, is immigration anarchy.
During a FAIR podcast appearance last year, Law said granting “amnesty” to DACA recipients is “rewarding their parents for their lawless behavior. Their parents made a choice to bring them here and defy our immigration laws and just because you have children doesn’t mean that you have a human shield that exempts you from any form of enforcement.”
Law has also gone after Republicans for purportedly not being sufficiently anti-immigrant, calling House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John McCain (R-AZ) “pro-amnesty” and claiming that Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is “eager to sell out the American people.”
USCIS is headed by immigration lawyer L. Francis Cissna. His nomination was opposed by numerous immigration advocacy groups due to his record on immigration. Law, however, praised his future agency head and criticized Sen. Tillis for putting a hold (later removed) on the nomination.