Our VoiceCulture

Word Choice: How FAIR Helped Transform “Population Control” into “Immigration Restriction”

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • Feb 21, 2013

Dan Stein, president of FAIR

In December of 1995, according to the Bergen Record, Donald Mann opened an office in Washington, DC for his population control organization, Negative Population Growth (NPG). Tasked with running the office was someone named Sharon Stein, “a veteran Washington consultant on immigration.”

In the course of writing the article, the Bergen Record’s reporter recorded a quote that should haunt the established anti-immigrant movement dealings within Conservative circles for decades. Mann said:

“[W]e should give incentives to low-income people who agree to sterilization. We should make available free abortion to low-income people on demand. And companies should cut back or deny maternity leave to women who have more than two children.

Keeping that quote in mind for a moment, yesterday morning, February 20, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) president Dan Stein was forced to publicly respond to the increasingly intense scrutiny that his organization has recently come under from critics within such Conservative circles, including present power players within the GOP. Responding on POLITICO (in reality, to numerous recent pieces streaming from Right-wing sources), Stein focused his anger at an editorial published on that site back on February 13, “The Anti-Immigration Cabal.” Stein writes:

“Over the years FAIR has been attacked by a variety of groups and individuals who see us as an impediment to achieving their political, ideological or economic goals through immigration policy. In Washington, being attacked is a clear acknowledgement of an organization’s effectiveness [….] These smears attempt to link FAIR’s concerns about rapid U.S. population growth with malevolent policies of forced sterilization and eugenics – policies FAIR has never advocated and affirmatively rejects.”

There is no doubting FAIR’s “effectivness.” That is true, but some of FAIR’s Board members past-and-present have long been invested in advocating for studies of eugenics, about which Stein lies, and research into voluntary and coerced sterilization via the experimental drug Quinacrine. Stein writes “forced,” not voluntary or coerced, so as not to lie twice. And if these “smears” are so “downright malicious and unfounded,” as he claims, why isn’t FAIR launching any libel suits?

Here’s one reason why.

When Donald Mann offered the quote above, the office that he had just opened in Washington, DC was housed “inside FAIR’s headquarters,” according to the story. And that “veteran Washington consultant on immigration,” Sharon Stein, who was serving as NPG’s executive director, she’s Dan Stein’s wife, who herself was also a FAIR employee at one point.

On POLITICO, Stein quarrels with his accusers credentials as immigration experts, but at one point FAIR’s longest-serving employee (since 1982) glosses quickly past an important admission. He writes:

“FAIR is, and always has been, an immigration policy group.”

On July 26, 1985, John Tanton, FAIR’s founder and Stein’s mentor, illuminates Stein’s assertions of “is, and always has been,” in his piece, “Discussion between John Tanton, Board Chairman and Linda Platt, FAIR’s newly hired Development Director at the FAIR Office, Washinton, D.C.” In this 7-page paper, Tanton explains FAIR’s organizational purpose and leadership history, serving as a briefing for Platt. Relevant to Stein’s claim, Tanton’s focus on the following two themes bears highlighting: that FAIR’s work is deeply rooted in population-control via the advocacy of low-immigration restrictions, and that FAIR’s Board of Directors and of Advisors are purposefully stocked with both conservatives and liberals who were all recruited from of the population-control, “family-planning” movement.

Tanton admits that of FAIR’s early board members, “Everybody on the list so far [at this point in the paper] has come out of the population movement and saw how immigration relates to the population problem.” Tanton mentions that as population-reduction advocates they all had come to share 1) a frustration with the “family planning” movement’s failure to address “population problems” and “components of growth” and 2) the recognition that immigration-reduction activism was the future home of those frustrated by said problems.

Tanton addresses this directly that piece, underscoring that the timing was ripe for a shift away from a population focus and a turning towards all things immigration:

“So, when I started out in the 1970s with ZPG [Zero Population Growth], fertility was high and migration was low and we properly spent our time focusing on fertility. Now fertility has gone down, and migration has gone up. If you’re still concerned about the numbers and if the game changes, you’d better change your game plan.”

So what FAIR has achieved, based on Tanton’s “game plan” and as Stein has executed it, is this-ensuring that the term “immigration restriction” would become synonymous with “population control,” and so much so that FAIR has since thought itself capable of concealing its past behind this simple shift in word choice. FAIR benefits from this, as it will never need to take an open stance on “population control” because just they simply started referring to it differently-“immigration restriction,” “concerns with growth,” “Negative Population Growth,” etc and so on.

As Walter Benjamin wrote, “That things continue on this way is the catastrophe.”

Stein’s assertions on POLITICO are also only true if one considers that FAIR’s founder and some early members of its Board of Directors are not a part of FAIR in anyway—which is obviously impossible. Furthermore, some of those individuals, to this day, still sit on either FAIR’s Board or its National Board of Advisors, i.e. the steering committees that have always guided and/or sign-offed on all of FAIR’s work: Otis Graham, Sharon Barnes, John Tanton, Sarah G. Epstein-Collins, and beyond them is Epstein’s husband, Donald A. Collins, Donald Mann, etc and so on.


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