The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in a report released Feb. 3 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 groups – the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA – are all 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 SPLC.

The report, “The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance” ( examines how each group was directed by Tanton who is now a retired Michigan ophthalmologist. According to SPLC, Tanton continues to operate an openly racist publishing company, which has produced literature stating that in order to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required.

“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,” he added 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. “And all three originated in the mind of Tanton and have restricted or helped to end any progress on reform.” Potok pointed out that Tanton promotes a science of breeding the white race.

Much of the report highlights correspondence documented by Tanton’s own writings stored at a University of Michigan library. The study points out that 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.

The study also points out that FAIR, whose members have testified frequently before Congress, has hired as key officials men who are known to be 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.

FAIR has claimed that Mexico is out to take over America and that immigrants hate this country, said Potok. Although each group denies their collaboration, “They’re all joined at the hip,” said Potok.

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

Lastly the report finds that NumbersUSA, a group SPLC says “has achieved dramatic policy successes,” also began as an organization founded by Tanton. Tanton has described Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA as his “heir apparent.” Beck also 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.

Beck along with a number of other Tanton employees have spoken at meetings of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group which has called blacks “a retrograde species of humanity,” according to the report.*

Their aim is to preach a nativist movement by demonizing Latinos and Latino immigrants, said Potok. “Tanton has said he sees his network as following in the spirit of American patriotism.”

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

Sharry added that Tanton and his followers who cultivated a strong anti-immigrant base 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 real and practical solutions that included comprehensive 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 will 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.”

*March 10, 2009 CORRECTIONS: Two minor corrections to this story:

According to Southern Policy Law Center report John Tanton ‘conceived and created’ these groups not founded and funded all of them as previously reported.

Former employees of Tantons, like Numbers USA’s Roy Beck, have spoken at meetings of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group which has called blacks “a retrograde species of humanity.” Not that Beck or others associated with Tanton were quoted as saying that in the report.

We regret the errors.