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On August 15, Lee Francis Cissna, the director of the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS), sat down for a press event with the hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which was founded by white nationalist John Tanton. One might ask what the head of a major government organization was doing palling around with a hate group. The truth is that this was not an isolated event, and that there is an anti-immigrant network Tanton founded and which CIS is a part of, which has become integral to the Trump Administration for both staffing and policy reasons. This network’s influence helps to explain the zealous attacks on immigrants and the white nationalist connections that have become the hallmark of this Administration. This influence has been beneficial for the network, which enjoys increased influence and donations.
John Tanton, originally a Michigan ophthalmologist, began to build a network of anti-immigrant organizations in the 1970’s. The three main anti-immigrant organizations he founded are NumbersUSA, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the latter two as hate groups. Just today, we learned that a former employee at FAIR recently filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination, saying “racial slurs” were used against him, and claiming he was “made fun of for being Hispanic”. The former employee, Joe Gomez, said his experience helps confirm that FAIR is in fact a hate group.
Tanton’s racist ideas have been a matter of the public record since the 1980’s. His early financial backers, the Pioneer Fund, like him believed in eugenics and white racial superiority. And two of Tanton’s friends are prominent white nationalists Jared Taylor and Peter Brimelow, who run the white nationalist websites American Renaissance and VDARE, respectively. A connection to Brimelow was the reason why a White House speechwriter was fired last week.
There remain many connections between the Trump White House and one or more of Tanton’s extremist groups. Alumni, supporters, and colleagues of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA have been vocal cheerleaders both inside and outside of the Administration for some of Trump’s worst immigration policies, including the increase in indiscriminate ICE raids, separations at the border, ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of families, ending help for children who are U.S. citizens but whose parents happens to be immigrants, and attempting to end DACA for Dreamers.
Here are just some of many of the connections between the Trump Administration and John Tanton’s anti-immigrant network:
The deep connections that Tanton’s anti-immigrant network has in the Trump Administration is concerning in its own right; but the immediate and long term effects of its influence on policy will continue to be devastating for the lives of countless immigrants. Under the Trump Administration, CIS, FAIR, NumbersUSA, and the rest of the Tanton network have more power than ever — and they’re using it to reshape American immigration policy, possible for decades to come.