For more than three decades, the organized anti-immigrant movement has pushed for policies that would dramatically lower the number of immigrants and refugees in the country, limit pathways for immigrants to come to the U.S. legally, and make life as difficult as possible for immigrants already living here. Founded by white nationalist and eugenicist John Tanton, the impacts of this movement’s advocacy have reinforced Tanton’s goal of maintaining and expanding a white majority in the United States. Anti-immigrant and white nationalist ideals should not have a home in American democracy, but under the Trump Administration, Tanton-aligned organizations have gained unprecedented power and influence.

The four most prominent organizations in the contemporary anti-immigrant movement are the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). These four groups receive millions in funding from the Colcom Foundation, established by the anti-immigrant heiress Cordelia Scaife May. While Colcom Foundation has funded these groups for many years, its support for anti-immigrant groups swelled after Trump’s election. With former staff members and allies inside the White House and working externally to support the Administration’s agenda, FAIR, CIS, NumbersUSA, and IRLI wield enormous sway. 

Anti-immigrant groups have been a driving force behind many of the Administration’s cruelest policies, including “zero tolerance” and family separation, dramatic cuts to refugee resettlement, an effective shuttering of the asylum system, repeals to DACA and ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for many countries, ramping up interior enforcement and conducting wide-scale workplace raids, deporting some immigrants to life-threatening circumstances in their home countries, and attempts to cut legal immigration avenues in half. Anti-immigrant groups also endorsed and defended Trump’s Muslim ban. 

We believe the facts laid out here can help policymakers, journalists, and community members better understand the origins of the modern anti-immigrant movement and its impact on individuals, families, communities, and policies — both here in the U.S. and abroad. Exposing anti-immigrant groups’ ties to white nationalism and discriminatory policy-making is key to building a people-centered, accountable, and transparent democracy. 

About Western States Center

Based in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, Western States Center works nationwide to strengthen inclusive democracy. For 30 years, our work has advanced social, racial, and economic justice by convening, developing, organizing, and supporting the communities most affected by inequities. We’ve played a catalytic role, working with community partners to build people-centered movements, develop new leaders, and shift culture–with our eyes on the prize of an inclusive democracy where people can live, love, and work free from bigotry and fear. Learn more about Western States Center at westernstatescenter.org.