Three Washington, D.C., organizations most responsible for blocking comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 are part of a network of groups created by a man who has been at the heart of the white nationalist movement for decades, according to a report issued today by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance describes how the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA were founded and funded by John Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist who operates a racist publishing company and has written that to maintain American culture, "a European-American majority" is required.
"These groups have infiltrated the mainstream by presenting themselves as legitimate commentators, when, in reality, they were all conceived by a man who is convinced that non-white immigrants threaten America," said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project. "They have never strayed far from their roots."
The report examines how Tanton, who still sits on FAIR's board of directors, founded the racist Social Contract Press and has corresponded with Holocaust deniers, white nationalist intellectuals and Klan lawyers for decades — correspondence documented by his own writings stored at a University of Michigan library.
It also shows that FAIR has been aware of his views and activities for years.
FAIR, whose members have testified frequently before Congress, has hired as key officials men who also joined white supremacist groups. It has promoted racist conspiracy theories. And it has even accepted more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation devoted to proving a connection between race and intelligence, the report found.
FAIR has been designated as a hate group by the SPLC.
The report also examines how the Center for Immigration Studies — which bills itself as a scholarly think tank — began its life as a FAIR program and continues to produce dubious studies furthering FAIR's anti-immigration agenda. It's a vision described by Tanton in a 1985 letter in which he wrote that CIS would produce reports "for later passage to FAIR, the activist organization, to remedy."
Similarly, NumbersUSA, a group that has achieved dramatic policy successes, began its life as a Tanton foundation program, the report found. NumbersUSA Executive Director Roy Beck has even been described by Tanton as his "heir apparent." He also edited The Immigration Invasion, a book by Tanton and a colleague that was so raw in its immigrant bashing that Canadian border authorities have banned it as hate literature.