At Vice News this week is an amazing and comprehensive longread about the John Tanton Network – the collection of hate groups (and hate-adjacent groups) that includes the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, and others. It’s called “Radical anti-immigrant groups infiltrated the GOP. Now it’s in the White House” and is a must-read when it comes to understanding the hate groups that have driven the anti-immigrant agenda for decades, and where Trump currently gets his ideas about immigration policy.
Anti-immigrant groups have a lot of influence in the Trump Administration – and they love it
The whole article is worth a read, but here we’ll highlight just two things. First, FAIR, CIS, etc., have “nativist, radically anti-immigration views” that traditionally weren’t accepted by mainstream Republicans or Democrats. But that’s changed with the Trump Administration, which has met with these groups, cited their data, put it into his ads, and invited them to his Administration’s meetings.
As the Vice article notes, at least six key advisers to Trump on immigration have ties to FAIR: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, advisors Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller, and transition aides Kris Kobach and Lou Barletta. This week, Julie Kirchner, the executive director of FAIR for 10 years, was named the new ombudsman of US Citizenship and Immigration Services – an outrage considering that she represented a group that is against immigration in all forms, and now has a role in which she’s supposed to be helping immigrants navigate the system. As Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) wrote in a statement, “Ms. Kirchner’s work on behalf of an organization classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-immigrant hate group should disqualify her from leading an office that supports immigrants in need.”
The Tanton groups love this new access to power – and that should be terrifying to anyone familiar with how much they hate immigrants. As Dan Stein, president of FAIR, told Vice:
Getting out of bed these days is a lot more fun than it used to be. I’m having the time of my life…Jeff Sessions is the man! He’s great. I wish we had 20 of him. He’s a national hero.
Under scrutiny, FAIR, CIS are pretending to seem reasonable – but don’t buy it
After all the influence they’ve gained in the White House, FAIR, CIS, and other groups in the Tanton Network have come under scrutiny – the New York Times, Daily Beast, and New Republic, in addition to Vice, have all recently written in-depth pieces about the Network. These days, the groups are trying to sound as reasonable and mainstream about opposing immigration as ever. Dan Stein, as a way of describing FAIR’s restrictionist beliefs, said to VICE:
I had to lose some weight once. I’m not anti-food. I love food. But I know I can only take in so much food. I love the idea of food. But I also want to live for a long time.
And according to the New York Times, the Tanton Network groups apparently don’t like being labeled anti-immigrant, and the Center for Immigration Studies uses the motto “low immigration, pro-immigrant” on its website.
All of which is completely ridiculous.
There are a lot of reasons why FAIR and CIS have been labeled hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It goes all the way back to their inception, and the fact that they were both founded by a Michigan man named John Tanton who was obsessed with eugenics, sterilization, and population control. Tanton wrote about how a “European-American majority” is required to maintain American culture, called Hispanic immigration a “Latin onslaught”, and published essays about an alien invasion that “reproduces rapidly and eats everything in sight.”
Tanton’s groups haven’t fallen far away from his rotten tree. FAIR, CIS, NumbersUSA, and their ilk oppose both legal and undocumented immigration. They fundamentally believe that allowing foreigners in destroys and dilutes American culture. (Donald Trump also subscribes to this white nationalist ideology.) They want to end birthright citizenship for people whose parents weren’t born here and want to criminalize all undocumented immigrants living in the United States. They put out ridiculous sham studies painting immigrants as a horde that is bringing Western civilization to decline: they’ve blamed immigrants for gang problems, for using up the water in the American Southwest, for climate change, and for abuse of the social safety net.
As Vice wrote:
Immigration, in FAIR’s view, threatens to subvert the soul and character of the United States — immigrants steal American jobs and exploit social welfare, they bring their lawless ways to the nation’s cities and have transformed a once-great country into what Trump described during his inauguration speech as “American carnage.” The group’s founder, John Tanton, said in a 1997 interview that unless the borders were sealed, the country would be overrun by people “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.”
The vast majority of Americans support immigration reform with a path to citizenship, but that’s not what the Tanton Network thinks is best for the country. The reality of what groups like FAIR and CIS stand for is a far cry from their current pretensions about not being “low-immigration, pro-immigrant.”
How Trump is the culmination of a 35-year agenda against immigrants
There’s a lot more in the Vice piece, including more about John Tanton, his writings, his relationship to the groups he founded, the Tanton Network’s eventual influence on anti-immigrant state legislation like Arizona’s SB 1070 – all the way up to the current influence they’ve gained over the White House. As Vice wrote:
FAIR has successfully hijacked the immigration debate and normalized its radical ideas, even as the American public grows more accepting of immigrants. FAIR now claims a membership and support network of more than 1.3 million people and has an annual budget of more than $5.5 million.
Rick Swartz, a longtime political strategist, founded the pro-immigrant advocacy group the National Immigration Forum in 1982, around the time FAIR got its start, and watched with alarm as the influence of Tanton’s organizations grew. “The FAIR network and its close ties to Trump reflect a 35-year strategy of blatant demagoguery and sophisticated innuendo,” he said, “which has provided the kindling for this era’s example of anti-immigrant backlash.”
Read the entire piece at Vice.