Contrary to Lou Dobbs, and other cable-TV hate-mongers, the current nativist wave is not an organic movement of Americans “fed up illegal immigration.” The better part of the current nativist movement was orchestrated by a retired Michigan opthamolagist by the name of John Tanton and a small group of wealthy donors. Starting in 1979, Tanton orchestrated a series of moves to establish a network of non-profit groups, advocacy organizations and media propaganda fronts. The foremost of these groups is the Federation for Immigration Control (“FAIR”) which continues to enjoy legitimacy amongst the mainstream media despite clear ties to racist and extremist organizations. The network that Tanton founded continues to function and the fronts that he established continue to be treated as indepenent entities, despite their shared kinship.
It was Tanton who founded the anti-immigration movement's most powerful institution, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (“FAIR”). Tanton’s interest in immigration was marked in the beginning by an explicitly racial argument. “To govern is to populate,” Tanton wrote in 1986. “Will the present majority peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile? … As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?”
Tanton founded FAIR in 1979. Between 1982 and 1994, it received more than $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund. A little-known foundation created in 1937, the Pioneer Fund likes to benignly describe its origins in “the Darwinian-Galtonian evolutionary tradition, and the eugenics movement.” In the late 1930s, though, it frankly admired Hitler. Today, it still bankrolls groups such as the racist American Renaissance and the American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF) in Virginia.
[A] single -- but not seamless -- web connects ideological white supremacists, armed border vigilantes, nativist think tanks, political action committees, and Republican Party officeholders in an anti-immigrant movement of growing significance. Formal policy deliberations may include debates on the fiscal costs of providing social services to undocumented workers, the supposed downward pressure immigrant labor exerts on the marketplace, the net costs and benefits of immigration, and the national-security problems evinced by holes in our borders. But at gatherings like these, the raw issues are race and national identity.
Differences between legal and illegal immigrants fade into a generalized belief that a brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking tidal wave is about to swamp the white-skinned population of the United States. The attempt to stop undocumented workers at the borders morphs into a campaign to end immigration altogether, to save our supposedly white nation from demographic ruin. As Tancredo told interviewer John Hawkins, “[If] we don't control immigration, legal and illegal, we will eventually reach the point where it won't be what kind of a nation we are, balkanized or united; we will have to face the fact that we are no longer a nation at all … .
In addition, FAIR's political action committee, the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC, routinely receives significant contributions from Tanton and his wife. FAIR's PAC has contributed more than a quarter-million dollars for and against candidates since 1999. In 2000, it spent more than $30,000 against Republican Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan, an Arab American, who lost that general election. Not surprisingly, it has also given the virulently anti-immigrant, Tom Tancredo $15,000 over the years, according to Federal Election Commission documents. The PAC had Peter Gemma on its payroll. Gemma is a denizen of Holocaust-denial meetings and other hardcore anti-Semitic venues, according to Devin Burghart, the author of numerous reports on anti-immigrant groups for the Center for New Community in Chicago.
"The New Nativists" In a notorious set of memos from 1986, Tanton set forth the vision and strategy of what was to become the anti-immigrant enterprise. In the most extensive memo, Tanton laid out a series of queries to guide the movement:
Is apartheid in Southern California’s future? The democraphic picture in South Africa now is startlingly similar to what we’ll see in California in 2030. In Southern Africa, a White minority owns the property, has the best jobs and education, has the political power, and speaks one language. A non-White majority has poor education, jobs and income, owns little property, is on its way to political power and speaks a different language. (The official language policy in South Africa is bilingualism -- the Blacks are taught in Zulu and related tongues.)
In California of 2030, the non-Hispanic Whites and Asians will own the property, have the good jobs and education, speak one language and be mostly Protestant and "other." The Blacks and Hispanics will have the poor jobs, will lack education, own little property, speak another language and will be mainly catholic.
Do ethnic enclaves (Bouvier, p. 18) constitute resegregation? As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion? Why don’t non-Hispanic Whites have a group identity, as do Blacks, Jews, Hispanics?
[T]he Whites and Asiatics will own and manage, but will not be able to speak to the Hispanic field workers. They will need bilingual foremen. Does this sound like social peace? Or like South Africa?
Initially, Tanton’s organizations did not meet with much legislative success but the media treated them as if they were legitimate grass-roots organizations. FAIR was widely quoted on all questions bearing upon immigration and they often testified before Congress. Another element of Tanton’s plan was infiltration of Congress and the Judiciary. As set out in another 1986 strategy memo by Tanton:
Since launching FAIR [Federation for American Immigration Reform] in January of 1979, the board has adhered steadfastly to one of the possible models for changing U.S. immigration law and practice. Our plan emphasized the national (rather than the state and local) nature of the immigration question, and, therefore, concentrated on building a national office and staff rather than working at the grassroots.
In my judgment, grassroots work has not been a major emphasis. On the media side of this question, I believe we get high marks for good and consistent effort throughout our existence.
Financially, FAIR grew rapidly its early years. The table shows our total revenues since its founding:
1986 1,600,000 (estimated)
GRAND TOTALS: 8 years & $8,500,000
Our financial growth was heavily based on a small number of major donors…
[We must] Secure appointments of our friends to positions on the Board of Immigration Appeals, to the Commissioner’s Post if Mr. Nelson leaves, as he will eventually, to other advisory boards in the INS and Justice Department.
FAIR and its sister organizations were heavily dependent on a small number of donors, most of whom had racist motivations for their contributions. The network of Tanton organization that this small group of wealthy individuals funded includes the front ograntizations.
American Immigration Control Foundation
AICF, 1983, funded
American Patrol/Voice of Citizens Together
1992, funded by Tanton
California Coalition for Immigration Reform
CCIR, 1994, funded by Tanton
Californians for Population Stabilization
1996, funded (founded separately in 1986) by Tanton
Center for Immigration Studies
CIS, 1985, founded and funded by Tanton
Federation for American Immigration Reform
FAIR, 1979, founded and funded by Tanton
1996, founded and funded by Tanton
1973, joined board in 1980 by Tanton
1994, founded and funded by Tanton
1999, funded by Tanton
The Social Contract Press
1990, founded and funded by Tanton
1983, founded and funded by Tanton
1982, founded and funded by Tanton
Each of these organizations keeps up a front of nominal independence despite being part of Tanton’s web. And each in turn has mingled extremist politics with its anti-immigrant rhetoric. In subsequent posts we will explore further the dark elements that make up Tanton’s Nativist movement.