- Helped establish the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition in 1987
- Served as executive director of the National Immigration Forum from 1990-2007
- Founded America's Voice in 2008
- Refers to U.S. efforts to enforce immigrant-visa compliance as “heavy-handed tactics [that] seem more like the old Soviet Union and South Africa.”
- Opposed the U.S. government’s implementation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which was designed to monitor visa holders and foreign nationals from countries known for their terrorist ties
See also: Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
National Immigration Forum America's Voice
Frank Sharry majored in History and American Studies at Princeton University, where he was also active in student protests against the school's investments in firms that conducted business in apartheid South Africa. After graduating in 1978, Sharry spent a year teaching secondary school at the United World College of Southeast Asia in Singapore. He subsequently took a job with the American Council for Nationalities Service (ACNS) in Singapore and Indonesia, assisting in the resettlement of boat refugees fleeing war-torn Vietnam.
In 1980 Sharry returned to the United States to work for ACNS's Fort Chaffee, Arkansas branch, where his efforts were focused on helping to resettle refugees from Fidel Castro's Cuba. Sharry later continued his Cuban refugee work in ACNS's main office in New York. Eventually he was promoted to oversee the organization's nationwide resettlement program (in 27 cities) for refugees from Southeast Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.
In 1986 Sharry left ACNS and relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he became executive director of Centro Presente, a local agency involved in the sanctuary movement for Central Americans fleeing the civil wars that were ravaging their homelands. Notably, Sharry and Centro Presente opposed the Reagan Administration’s efforts to combat the spread of communism in the region.
In 1987 Sharry helped establish the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. In 1990 he was hired as executive director of the National Immigration Forum (NIF), a post he held for more than 17 years.
In 1994 Sharry took a temporary leave of absence from NIF to serve as deputy campaign manager of Taxpayers Against Proposition 187. Proposition 187 was a California Initiative to deny social service and welfare benefits to the state’s illegal aliens.
In the post-9/11 era, Sharry and NIF objected strongly to the U.S. government’s implementation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which was designed to monitor visa holders and foreign nationals from countries that, in the judgment of the State Department and the Immigration & Naturalization Service, posed an “elevated national security risk”—e.g., Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. NSEERS required that these individuals, when presenting themselves for admission to the U.S., be fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed at some length. Their identities were then matched against intelligence and criminal-records databases in an effort to identify people who were wanted criminals or suspected terrorists. Though NSEERS stopped at least 330 known foreign criminals and three known terrorists from entering the U.S., Sharry complained that “these heavy-handed tactics seem more like the old Soviet Union and South Africa.”
In 2008 Sharry left NIF to become the founder and executive director of America's Voice.
In 2010 Sharry condemned the Arizona legislature’s passage of SB 1070, a bill deputizing state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of criminal suspects whose behavior or circumstances seemed to suggest that they might be in the United States illegally. By Sharry's reckoning, the new law constituted a declaration of “open season on all Latinos” and represented “the worst, most narro[w]-minded and bigoted instincts of the past.”
In November of that same year, Sharry lauded Democratic congressman Luis Gutierrez—an open-borders advocate with deep, longstanding socialist ties—for being “as close as the Latino community has to a Martin Luther King figure.”
In February 2013, Sharry was one of a number of influential progressive activists who gathered to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss immigration policy. Also present were Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union, and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO. Also present were representatives of Casa de Maryland, the Center for American Progress, the National Council of la Raza, the National Immigration Forum, the National Immigration Law Center, and the United Farm Workers.
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