Bob Dane, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), ridiculed his organization’s Mexican-American spokesperson, who suffered from bouts of shaking brought on by anxiety, in front of an intern last year. The spokesperson’s name was Joe Gomez and that night, he quit his job. Months later, he filed a discrimination complaint against FAIR citing racial hostility he faced in the workplace. And now, he’s bringing the organization’s dirty laundry into the public light.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists FAIR in its database of anti-immigrant hate groups due to the organization founder’s connections to white nationalists and anti-Semites, as well as FAIR’S call for an extreme reduction in immigration quotas in order to maintain the U.S. as a majority-white country. FAIR is among a handful of anti-immigrant groups funded by the Colcom Foundation, one of several donor vehicles created by right-wing members of Pittsburgh’s Scaife family.
Gomez worked as a morning radio news correspondent for 10 years before he started seeking other work that didn’t involve, among other things, waking up a 3 a.m. every day. He started browsing various public relations career possibilities and came across a job listing for FAIR. He says didn’t know much about the group, other than that they were focused on immigration and border security, and figured his experience reporting on immigration might give him a leg up. Last year, Gomez told The Daily Beast that “an undercover assignment in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, convinced him that immigration reform was a critical issue facing the country.”
“To be honest, I didn’t do my due diligence,” Gomez told Right Wing Watch.
Gomez said that almost as soon as he applied, there was a “sudden interest” in his application expressed by FAIR officials, which he believes may have been because he is a Mexican-American and has plentiful contacts in the radio industry.
“A Mexican-American spokesperson for an anti-immigrant hate group is kind of too good to pass up,” Gomez said.
Gomez told Right Wing Watch that while he was interviewing for the job, Dave Ray, FAIR’s communications director, told him that the organization was nonpartisan and that Ray supported a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. It wasn’t long after settling into his role that he says he realized that wasn’t true.
While working at FAIR, Gomez says he was called a “spic,” that his coworkers would introduce him to others by joking that he didn’t speak English and that he faced hostile attitudes after hanging a map of Latin America in his office. In another instance, he says one coworker made a cartoon depiction of him next to a low-rider vehicle that Gomez says he believes was created to mock the fact he was Hispanic and that the image was circulated around the office. Gomez provided a copy of that image to Right Wing Watch.
We reached FAIR communication director Dave Ray via email to ask for comment but did not receive a response before publication.
Gomez said that he suffered from compulsive shaking at work because he was at an “emotional breaking point,” and that Dane would mock him for it in front of his colleagues. Before he quit his job, Gomez says he was in Dane’s office with an intern assigned to Gomez when he began having tremors. The intern and Dane began laughing at him, causing Gomez, by his own account, to feel humiliated.
That night, Gomez wrote an email informing his bosses that he would not be returning to work because he believed it was a hostile environment. He says received no response from the organization, except for when FAIR’s human resource department called him to ask him to return to the office and fill out paperwork and return his RFID key card used to get into the office.
Later that year, Gomez filed a discrimination complaint with the Office of Human Rights in Washington.
Gomez said that working for FAIR has damaged his ability to find a new full-time job. He has struggled to gain full-time employment and is currently receiving public assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. Although he has scored job interviews, he said that the fact he had worked for FAIR “killed” those opportunities.
As his complaint is processed, Gomez has taken it upon himself to use his skills as a news reporter to expose FAIR’s unsavory actions.
Gomez has a podcast he calls “American Grit” in which he interviews people who have done battle with FAIR, including former Texas congressman Martin Frost, who was targeted by racist ads paid for by FAIR, and J.D. Scholten, who challenged FAIR-favorite Rep. Steve King in the 2018 midterm election. On the show, he talks of his experiences at FAIR and the battle for immigration reform.
FAIR has suffered dwindling influence on Capitol Hill and even among conservative media outlets since the organization was identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2008, Gomez says, and has suffered even more in the Trump era.
“FAIR, once upon a time, cornered the market on being anti-immigrant,” Gomez said. “I think Trump has sucked away a lot of that. … The market is over-saturated with anti-immigrant voices.”
Gomez said that although he didn’t believe Trump dealt with FAIR much personally, that White House aide Stephen Miller has met with FAIR to discuss immigration policy and once spoke on a conference call with the group.
(Update 2/7/19): On January 30, Gomez and FAIR came to an agreement and the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission closed its investigation. Gomez signed a retraction of his allegations of unlawful conduct against the organization.
“We reached a mutual agreement,” Gomez told Right Wing Watch, declining further comment.