At the New York Times today is another great piece on the John Tanton network, how anti-immigrant hate groups have Trump as an ally, and the general incredulity (including some from the restrictionists themselves) that anti-immigrant groups have so much power.
The John Tanton network, of course, refers to a group of Washington, DC-based organizations that have for decades pushed around the idea that the US should be preserved for white people. John Tanton himself was Michigan ophthalmologist who was obsessed with eugenics, overpopulation, and the idea of America being taken over by people of color. He backed sterilization, wrote about how “a European-American majority” is required to maintain American culture, and worried about “less intelligent” people being allowed to have children.
Tanton started a whole array of anti-immigrant groups including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), NumbersUSA, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). For decades, these groups have worked with racists, anti-Semites, and white nationalists to promote dubious studies and misleading research that supposedly show why we need to have fewer immigrants in the United States. Their work is so outrageous that both FAIR and CIS have been listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The groups operated on the outskirts of the mainstream for a long time, frequented only by the cranks and the Breitbarts of the world. But Donald Trump’s ethno-centric worldview, of course, aligns with theirs — meaning that the Tanton network, unfortunately, is growing in influence these days.
The influence of Tanton alumni in Trump’s Administration
The New York Times article highlights how many Tanton network alumni now work in Trump’s Administration, and how they’ve already begun to influence immigration policy. Chief among them, of course, is Jeff Sessions, who was the Tanton network’s favorite members of Congress when he was a Senator, and now as Attorney General has directed the Department of Justice to crack down on immigration and spearheaded threats against US cities he views as being too friendly to immigrants. Other anti-immigrant restrictionists in the Trump Administration — who are poised to do a lot of harm to immigrants in America — include:
Julie Kirchner, who served for a decade as executive director of the organization…known as FAIR, is now working as an adviser to the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. Kellyanne Conway, before she was known for campaign work and spirited defenses of Mr. Trump on cable television, worked regularly as a pollster for FAIR
Mr. Trump’s senior White House adviser, Stephen Miller, worked tirelessly to defeat immigration reform as a staff member for Senator Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. Gene P. Hamilton, who worked on illegal immigration as Mr. Sessions’s counsel on the Judiciary Committee, is now a senior counselor at the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of the Border Patrol and ICE, where Mr. Feere is working. Julia Hahn, who wrote about immigration for Breitbart — with headlines like “Republican-Led Congress Oversees Large-Scale Importation of Somali Migrants” — has followed her former boss, Stephen K. Bannon, to the White House as a deputy policy strategist….
Their influence is already being felt. Mr. Trump is known for his sound-bite-ready pledges to deport millions of people here illegally and to build a border wall, but some of the administration’s more technical yet critical changes to immigration procedures came directly from officials with long ties to the hard-line groups.
These include expanding cooperation between immigration agents and local law enforcement officials; cracking down on “sanctuary cities”; making it more difficult for migrants to successfully claim asylum; allowing the Border Patrol access to all federal lands; and curtailing the practice of “catch and release,” in which undocumented immigrants are released from detention while their cases plod through the courts.
The roster is a record that Dan Stein, president of FAIR, couldn’t help boasting about to the New York Times: “We’ve worked closely with lots of people, who are now very well placed in his administration, for a long time,” he said in a chilling statement.
Even restrictionists are surprised at their access
In the article, Daniel Tichenor, an immigration politics scholar at the University of Oregon, called it “highly unusual” in the post-World War II era to have proponents of sharply reduced immigration in such high-ranking positions.
“You would have to go to the 1920s and 1930s to find a comparable period in which you could point to people within the executive agencies and the White House who favored significant restrictions,” Tichenor said.
The article then goes on to quote Mark Krikorian, executive director of the CIS, who is apparently also surprised that Donald Trump has been so receptive to groups like his: “This is inconceivable a year ago,” Krikorian said. “Frankly, it’s almost inconceivable six months ago.”
Finally, the New York Times article reveals that additional scrutiny is being piled onto the John Tanton network now that their representatives are in positions of power. To handle the scrutiny, the organizations are making a case for themselves in comical ways. They don’t like to be labeled anti-immigrant (ridiculous since they are against legal as well as undocumented immigration), and CIS uses the motto “low immigration, pro-immigrant” on its website (which we’re pretty sure is an oxymoron). Dan Stein of FAIR said he believes in immigration more as a theoretical concept, expressing his opinion that:
The average American basically likes the idea of immigration, maybe loves the concept — it’s played an important historic role in our history — but would be perfectly fine if we didn’t have another immigrant for 50 years.
That’s a concept that would lead to disaster. But the Trump Administration is unlikely to realize that with CIS, FAIR, and the other Tanton networks in its ear.