The Federation for American Immigration Reform, better known as FAIR, has long been one of the most influential organizations advocating for a crackdown on illegal immigration and strict limits on the legal variety.
One of its public faces was Joe Gomez, a Mexican American and African American who served as its press secretary from November to July.
”We need to protect Americans,” he’d often say in interviews.
But after seven months of contending with what he described as racist slurs, discrimination and harassment from the group’s management, Gomez has filed a discrimination complaint with the Office of Human Rights in Washington, a local governmental agency that enforce human rights and anti-discrimination laws in the district.
Gomez, a 32-year-old independent and former NBC News Radio journalist who voted for President Trump, said that when he applied for the job the organization’s leaders assured him they simply believed in the rule of law and were not racist.
“The way they sold themselves was ‘we’re against anyone who comes to the country illegally…. We do not discriminate against blacks, whites, Latinos,’” Gomez said he was told. “What I found was something utterly different.”
In the complaint, which he filed late last month, he alleged discrimination based on both his race and severe anxiety that he developed on the job.
He said he was denied a bonus promised to him after a “glowing” six-month review. He also said that one colleague repeatedly used a derogatory term to refer to Latinos and that he was ridiculed for not being able to speak Spanish despite his heritage.
On one occasion, he alleged, another employee “offered to pretend to be an ‘illegal alien’ from Mexico and smear herself with mud” for a film in which Gomez would play the lead role. Gomez declined to participate.
Gomez said he’s asking for monetary compensation but wouldn’t say how much. He pledged to donate most of any financial settlement he receives to immigrant charities.
FAIR President Dan Stein said in a statement that “Joe was treated like a prince at FAIR” and “was respected by all.”
“Joe was never denied any benefit, opportunity or promotion on account of any impermissible basis,” the statement said. “Joe has furnished zero, not one shred of documented evidence to support his claims.”
It also said the nonprofit has a diverse staff, including immigrants, people of color and — at the moment — at least two other Latino employees. With a budget of $11.2 million, the group has a total of 40 employees, according to its 2016 tax filing.
Gomez said in an interview that the derogatory comments were not directed only at him. Staff would also mock anti-immigration supporters who left messages on the group’s Facebook page. He described a typical comment: “Those are just people who are living in trailers who figured out the internet.”
His job eventually became so stressful that he developed anxiety and would at times shake uncontrollably. That brought more ridicule, the complaint said.
Part of the stress came from friends and members of his own family.
His grandmother, who is Mexican American, didn’t like the work he did and refused to accept the $200 he’d send to her each month.
“It’s blood money,” she would tell him.
Follow Cindy Carcamo on Twitter @thecindycarcamo