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Immigration forum cancelled after protests

A public immigration forum held by the League of Women Voters of Baltimore at the Catonsville Library was cancelled after protests from prominent local liberal groups who objected to the invitation of a speaker from the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The purported expert subject of protestations was Johnathan Hanen, a member of FAIR who works as a freelance journalist for the lobbyist group, as well as other print sources.

FAIR is known for using terminology such as “illegal aliens,” and according to activist group Southern Poverty Law Center, has referenced on their page a book on immigration by a white nationalist. The founder himself, John Tanton, was accused by the New York Times in 2011 as an “apostle of centrist restraint to ally of angry populists and a man who increasingly saw immigration through a racial lens.”

The week of Oct. 3, a similar immigration discussion was held in Cockeysville, but was shut down after interruptions from progressive members of the Baltimore Green Party. The session that was to be held on Thursday Oct. 18 was to be a replacement, but due to many members of Indivisible, the Baltimore Green Party and other progressives writing to LWV and demanding a shut down, the second discussion forum was cancelled as well.

The Baltimore County Green Party and Howard County chapter of Indivisible are activist organizations that protest on political and social issues. Indivisible is self-described as a network of local grassroots organizations fighting the Trump agenda, which is why they protest the FAIR organization which strongly supports his proposed immigration policy. The Baltimore County Green Party exists to create “economic, environmental, and racial justice for Baltimore and beyond.”

The LWV cancelled the event after many call-ins raised safety concerns, calling the cancellation a missed opportunity to change opinions of opposing stances. Both the Baltimore Green Party and Indivisible claimed that they do not discuss with hate groups. FAIR has received its hate group label from the SPLC, which it denies.

Jennifer Haire, vice president of the Women’s Voter League, told the Baltimore Sun in an interview, “[The protestors] could have had an impact on the discussion. The whole idea is to move these discussions forward, to make progress toward solutions.”