This February’s Tanton Memo of the Month* details a list of nearly 30 organizations founded by U.S., Inc., John Tanton’s financial “umbrella” organization. The other day I found this document in our archives. As I plied through a variety of anti-immigrant documents, I stumbled across John Tanton’s description of his “umbrella”, U.S., Inc. For those unfamiliar with John Tanton, he’s the founder of a variety of anti-immigrant organizations, including Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, Pro-English, U.S. English, the white nationalist publication The Social Contract, and a variety of environmental and anti-immigrant projects.
Tanton has also financially supported over 50 organizations and individuals who, essentially, campaign on his behalf. Not all of his projects directly relate to immigration issues. Some support projects preserving wildlife, like ProWild, “a project that promoted the ranching of native animals in East Africa, or “Bringing Out the Best in Ourselves”, which “is a series of small grants to local public and parochial schools,” and Scenic Michigan, “an affiliate of the national organization Scenic America.”
Some are familiar with John Tanton from our work on immigration issues. John Tanton orchestrated today’s anti-immigrant movement. Tanton also cares deeply about preserving the environment, but only for a certain sector of the population. As Tanton openly admits in an interview, “Immigration is a demographic issue.” The entry point for Tanton, whether its immigration, the environment, or English-only issues, is the demographic composition of the nation. He may filter his language for a post-civil rights audience, but the message is the same. As white nationalist circles have no problem claiming that a community’s racial makeup is to blame for high rates of poverty in communities of color, Tanton will simply say that immigrants south of the border are a “brain drain” and negatively affect the successes of western civilization. Even though Tanton may not state the cause of this “brain drain,” the fact that he defines immigrants as a “drain” matches perfectly with white nationalists’ perception of people of color.
As you scroll the list of organizations, you will notice that some of these organizations no longer operate directly under U.S., Inc., for example the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA. This does not mean that NumbersUSA no longer works with John Tanton. In fact, NumbersUSA received financial support from Tanton in 2007. NumbersUSA also signed onto a joint project with U.S., Inc. and the population control organization, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), an organization that has also received financial support from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that financially supports scientific racism.
As immigrant rights supporters push for immigration reform, the John Tanton Network’s participation in our national debate on the issue is not benign. To John Tanton, immigration is a “demographic issue.”
*The John Tanton letters and memos are a public collection at the Bentley Historical Library.