We know about John Tanton’s journey from environmentalist to population control but when and how did the focus switch to immigration? More importantly, did the focus really switch to immigration or was it simply a more palatable way to market zero population growth as a method to save the planet? From some of Tanton’s own writings and statements, my money is on the latter.
While serving on the National Executive Committee of Zero Population Growth, Tanton chaired ZPG’s Immigration Study Committee. From 1978 until the present, Tanton was a very busy fella. He organized, funded, served on the board, etc more than 13 population/immigration/environmental organizations.
In 1979, Tanton founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR remains one of the top immigration reform organizations and Tanton continues to serve on the board of directors. FAIR is the “mothership” of Tanton’s network.
According to a 1986 memo from John Tanton, total revenues for FAIR in 1979 were $216,349. By 1986, estimated total revenues were 1.6 million dollars. Over 8 years FAIR raised 8.5 million dollars. Not bad for an organization started by a retired Ophthalmologist with a “small number of major donors, who rapidly increased their contributions in the early years.”
The 1986 memo from John Tanton is a peek inside the goals of FAIR. Really more of a long-range strategic planning proposal, Tanton started with a brief history of the work of FAIR including the focus on illegal immigration instead of legal immigration and the “quantity of immigrants rather than their quality.”
Among strategies laid out in the memo, Tanton espoused his desire to infiltrate the judiciary committees.
“We should make every effort to get legislators sympathetic to our point of view appointed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and their Immigration Sub-Committees. Think how much different our prospects would be if someone espousing our ideas had the chairmanship! If we secure the appointment of our people as freshmen members of the committee, we will eventually secure the chairmanship. Remember: we’re in this for the long haul.”
Tanton also expressed a desire to infiltrate the advisory boards of the INS and the Justice Department.
“Secure appointments of our friends to positions on the Board of Immigration Appeals, to the Commissioner’s Post if Mr. Nelson leaves, as he will eventually, to other advisory boards in the INS and Justice Department.”
Tanton even spoke of working with opponents of abortion just to get some influence in Congress. (further solidifying the question of his pro-abortion stance)
“For instance, we could go to the Ways and Means Committee to make sure that the earned income tax credit is not available to illegal aliens. We could work with Henry Hyde – the opponent of many of us on abortion – on his interest in reducing document fraud.”
De-emphasizing the corporation and promoting a more grassroots type organization while “building an intellectual base” was another long-term strategy. Tanton expressed the need for the appearance of “the low-key behind the scenes approach.” He also touted the newest Tanton organization, The Center for Immigration Studies, as developing the intellectual base for immigration law reform.
Twenty-one years later, it is obvious that Tanton’s long range planning paid off.
About the same time as the 1986 strategic planning memo, Tanton wrote a memo to attendees of WITAN IV. WITAN was short for “witenangemot” which means “council of wise men”. According to Tanton’s opening paragraphs, the WITAN IV memo was essentially a set of possible talking points on the “non-economic consequences of immigration to California”. Here are a few snips from Tanton’s WITAN IV memo…
“Will the present majority peaceably hand over political power to a group that is simply more fertile?”
“Is apartheid in Southern California’s future?”
“Will Latin American migrants bring with them the tradition of the mordida (bribe), the lack of involvement in public affairs, etc?”
“Is assimilation a function of the educational and economic level of immigrants? If so, what are the consequences of having so many ill-educated people coming in to low paying jobs?”
“What will be the effect on the conservation movement, which has drawn its support in the past from other than the minorities, and which has relied on the political power of the majority to pass legislative measures?”
“Can homo contraceptivus compete with homo progentivia if borders aren’t controlled? Or is advice to limit ones family simply advice to move over and let someone else with greater reproductive powers occupy the space?”
“On the demographic point: perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!”
John Tanton’s immigration concerns appear to be rooted more in environmental concerns with population growth than “illegal versus legal” based on the 1986 memos. Is it a stretch to think that it remains his primary concern in 2007? You can't overlook the fact that there is more than a whiff of racial bias in his statements.
**It is important to note that when this confidential memo was leaked to the media in 1988, Linda Chavez resigned from her position at US English (another Tanton organization). Chavez’s history with John Tanton and his organizations gives her the moral authority to write columns decrying the racist tone of the immigration debate. Chavez earned her bones in the belly of the beast and speaks from a position of knowledge. Whether you agree or not with her message or her tone, you have to, at least, give her the benefit of “been there- done that”.**
Next up – Tanton’s empire of organizations and how they fit into the immigration reform picture…
Everything You Didn't Want to Know About Those Immigration Bill Foes