Reform blocked by racist groups

The Southern Poverty Law Center in a recent report charges that three Washington D.C. organizations have racist roots and that they were the most responsible for blocking comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. All three — the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA — are part of a single chain of lobbyist groups conceived and created* by John Tanton, known as an extreme white nationalist and anti-immigrant culprit, says the law center.

The report, “The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance” (www.splcenter.org) examines how each group was directed by Tanton, now a retired Michigan ophthalmologist. According to SPLC, Tanton operates an openly racist publishing company that promotes a “European-American majority” as a requirement in order to maintain American culture.

“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 and co-author of the report. “They have never strayed far from their roots,” added Potok during a telephone press conference.

“These groups were the demise of comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 and stand in the way of the debate today,” said Potok. Tanton promotes a science of breeding the white race, added Potok.

Tanton, who sits on FAIR’s board of directors, founded the racist Social Contract Press, which has corresponded with people who deny the Holocaust, white nationalist intellectuals and Ku Klux Klan lawyers for decades.

FAIR, whose members have testified frequently before Congress, has hired men affiliated with white supremacist groups. FAIR has also been known to promote extreme racist conspiracy theories and has also accepted more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that has tried to prove a connection between race and intelligence. SPLC has designated FAIR as a hate group.

The Center for Immigration Studies began as a program initiated by FAIR and continues to produce studies to further the anti-immigrant agenda. It is believed that Tanton envisioned CIS to release reports, which would be passed onto and enacted by FAIR.

Tanton also founded Numbers USA and has described Roy Beck, executive director of the group, as his “heir apparent.” Beck edited a book by Tanton called “The Immigration Invasion” that was so backward in its anti-immigrant rhetoric that the Canadian border authorities have banned it as hate literature.

Some authors associated with NumbersUSA describe African Americans as a “retrograde species,” according to Potok. Their aim is to preach a nativist movement by demonizing Latinos and immigrants, said Potok.

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice said, “Tanton is a puppeteer and part of a coordinated effort to drive out all immigrants.”

Sharry added that Tanton and his followers cultivated an anti-immigrant base and wanted to take over the Republican Party, which culminated in the 2007 failure of immigration reform.

“But the 2008 election of Barack Obama was a huge game changer,” said Sharry. “The election of Obama turned conventional wisdom on its head. And the Latino vote overall was the biggest game changer.” Republicans and their conservative base did not get away with using immigration as a wedge issue, he said.

“Swing voters expressed their voice for practical solutions including immigration reform,” Sharry continued.

The old way of politics where lawmakers run away from tough issues like immigration are of the past, Sharry said. “Obama gets it and we are confident that he will keep his promise.” Sharry believes by the fall of 2009 the Obama administration will act.

Sharry said the new immigration debate would combine fair labor standards and enforcement policies. “If we are going to fix the economy then we are going to have to fix the lower end of our workforce including undocumented workers in the labor market and the fight to increase the minimum wage. We will need an equal playing field where we don’t undermine workers’ rights so that all workers have more bargaining power.”

In the end worker’s rights with or without papers are part of the economic recovery plan, said Sharry. “The legalization of undocumented workers is an economic stimulus.”

plozano@pww.org

*March 6, 2009 CORRECTION: According to Southern Policy Law Center report John Tanton 'conceived and created' these groups not founded and funded. We regret the error.